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Judge Denies HFPA’s Motion to Dismiss Long-Time Publicist’s Suit (Updated)

Claims by the charity Stars For a Cause can also proceed

Updated 1:40 p.m. PT

Judge Kevin Brazile on Wednesday denied a motion by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to dismiss portions of the lawsuit brought by its former publicist Michael Russell, paving the way for the litigation to move forward to court.

However, Joe Campo, an attorney for the HFPA, said the group still expects the ligitation to be dismissed before it reaches a jury trial.

Russell slapped the organization best known for producing the Golden Globes with a $2 million suit last January. It alleges a glittering array of unethical practices by the group's members, including accepting money and gifts from studios in exchange for nominating their films, and selling media credentials for personal profit.

Judge Brazile on Wednesday also denied a motion to dismiss portions of a related lawsuit filed against the HFPA and its chairman Philip Berk by the nonprofit charity Stars for a Cause.

Also read: Former Golden Globes Publicist Sues HFPA for $2M, Claims Fraud, Payola

In a suit filed just weeks after Russell's bombshell accusations, Stars alleges that Berk and the HFPA sabotaged its relationships with a number of corporate sponsors that had supported its charity campaigns, including Chrysler and "Entertainment Tonight."

Berk and the HFPA now have 20 days to answer Russell's complaint.

"In essence, Judge Kevin Brazile determined that he needs factual evidence from upcoming depositions before he can issue an order of summary judgment on the claims, dismissing the litigation in advance of a trial before a jury," HFPA attorney Campo said. "That remains our goal and the decision of wednesday morning in no way diminishes our expectation in that regard."

James Ramsey, an attorney for Russell's company and Stars, hailed the decision.

“By rejecting the efforts of the HFPA and Philip Berk to avoid answering the charges in these lawsuits, the judge’s ruling effectively closes the door on the first stage of the cases and rings in the discovery round, which will begin in earnest," Ramsey said in a statement.

The Russell and Stars suits are not the only legal challenges facing the HFPA. The organization sued Dick Clark Productions last November, claiming that the production company — the longtime producer of the Golden Globes — improperly negotiated a new contract with NBC to air the awards.

Originally scheduled for this past September , that case may not go to trial until next July, after the judge who was originally intended to hear the case got sick.
 

 

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