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Kesha lawyers insist appeal court matters must be resolved before Dr Luke defamation lawsuit goes to trial

By | Published on Wednesday 31 August 2022


Lawyers for Kesha have said that the court hearing for her long-running defamation legal battle with producer Dr Luke – currently scheduled for next February – can’t go ahead until the New York Court Of Appeal has ruled on some side disputes. And, they claim, Luke’s legal team are responsible for delays in the appeals court making it less likely that those matters will be addressed before next February.

Luke’s defamation lawsuit against Kesha is all that remains of a long running dispute between the former collaborators, which began when Kesha accused Luke of rape. He denies those allegations and – arguing that Kesha’s claims have negatively impacted on his career – he sued for defamation.

The side disputes relate to decisions already made by the judge overseeing the case which favour Luke. In particular, those decisions impact on whether the producer has to show that Kesha acted with actual malice when making her allegations against him. If he does, that would increase Luke’s burden in court and make it harder for him to win.

The producer would have that obligation if the court considered him to be a public figure or if new free speech rules in New York state were applied retrospectively to lawsuits already in progress, like this one. However, the judge hearing the case previously decided Luke was not a public figure and that those new free speech rules should not apply.

It’s those decisions – and another relating to whether the allegedly defamatory statements are protected by certain “litigation privileges” – that are being appealed. And, Kesha’s legal team say in a letter sent to the court yesterday, “trial cannot proceed without resolution of these issues”.

The letter adds: “It would be a monumental waste of party and judicial resources to proceed to trial when there is a very real risk that a new trial immediately would be required, as would be the case if the Court Of Appeals reverses as to any of the several questions currently before it”.

That said, the letter goes on, it is currently Kesha’s preference that the scheduled February court hearing can still go ahead, but that requires prompt resolution of the issues being appealed. And the Kesha side, the letter insists, has been doing everything it can to get such prompt resolution.

“Kesha has done everything in her power to try to ensure that trial will begin as scheduled, including by seeking to expedite proceedings in the Court Of Appeals”, her lawyers insist. But, they add, “Dr Luke has obstructed her efforts at every turn”.

The letter then outlines the back and forth between the two sides in relation to the appeals, and the delays allegedly caused by the Luke side. It also notes a letter from Luke’s attorneys stating that that February court hearing should go ahead even if the appeal court matters have not been concluded, but, the Kesha side declares: “He does not explain how that could possibly be true”.

With all that in mind, the Kesha letter concludes: “Given the many moving parts, including Kesha’s pending request for calendar preference at the Court Of Appeals, it would be premature to determine now whether trial can proceed on 20 Feb 2023. Kesha respectfully requests that the parties and Court proceed in the meantime with a commitment to that date and evaluate the situation when there is additional timing-related information from the Court Of Appeals”.

For their part, Luke’s legal team were dismissive of the Kesha side’s position, telling Billboard: “It is Kesha’s attorneys who have delayed the case for years by endlessly filing meritless appeals, which they have lost time and again. If the case is not tried in February, it solely will be due to the fact that Kesha’s lawyers decided yet again to take more appeals”.