NEW YORK — A judge who ruled an aspiring actress can use sex trafficking laws to sue Harvey Weinstein seemed reluctant at a hearing Wednesday to let his decision be appealed before trial.
U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet noted that no other judge has disagreed with his August ruling. Two other federal judges, one in Manhattan and one in California, have cited Sweet's finding in ruling as he did in other cases against Weinstein.
"Other judges know what I've done. At the moment, there's no conflict," Sweet said.
He didn't rule on whether lawyers can immediately appeal his finding that sex trafficking laws more commonly used to shut down brothels can be used against a Hollywood titan accused of sexual abuse by multiple women.
Attorney Phyllis Kupferstein, representing Weinstein, told Sweet an immediate appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was appropriate for a new question of law.
"Do you know any other instance where a court's interpretation of a statute is grounds for an immediate appeal?" Sweet asked.
"This is a case of first impression," Kupferstein responded.
Kupferstein and other lawyers for Weinstein have argued that the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 was written to criminalize and prevent slavery, servitude and human trafficking for commercial gain and was being misused against Weinstein.
She said a reversal of his finding would essentially shut down the civil lawsuit filed in fall 2017 by actress Kadian Noble and others like it. Lawyers for Weinstein have argued nothing of value was exchanged between Noble and Weinstein.
Noble alleged that Weinstein and his employees encouraged her to meet Weinstein in a Cannes, France, hotel room in 2014 so he could watch her demo reel, but then Weinstein molested her and forced her into a bathroom to watch him masturbate.
Weinstein denies wrongdoing and has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. Scores of women have accused the movie mogul of sexual misconduct.
In August, Sweet concluded the proverbial casting couch, in which women are asked to trade sex for Hollywood opportunities, could be considered a "commercial sex act."
Jeffrey Herman, Noble's attorney, said outside court that his client moved to Los Angeles three weeks ago with her 12-year-old daughter because she felt good enough after speaking out that she wants to resume her career.
"For her, having a voice and bringing the case changed her life," he said.
Herman said there had been a "seismic shift" in Hollywood as a result of the #MeToo movement.
"There is no 'casting couch' as there was," he said.