*** Update *** On June 13, 2023, the New York Court of Appeals issued an opinion holding that New York’s new anti-SLAPP law applies to lawsuits filed before the new law’s effective date and continued after that date, starting from the effective date. So, if Kesha wins her anti-SLAPP motion against Dr. Luke, then he must pay all of the attorneys’ fees she incurred starting from the effective date of the new anti-SLAPP law.
Note: The Court also decided two other issues: It held that the “sham exception” is inconsistent with New York’s absolute privilege, which protects statements made in a lawsuit from ever forming the basis of a defamation lawsuit. At the same time, the Court held that the statements made in preparation for a lawsuit, including sending a draft complaint to reporters before filing the lawsuit, are only protected by a qualified privilege, which means the statements must be made in good faith. Therefore, the Court concluded that Dr. Luke’s defamation lawsuit against Kesha must still go to trial, so that a jury can decide whether she made her pre-lawsuit statements in good faith or as a “sham” (in order to pressure him into releasing her from her contracts with him). Furthermore, the Court held that Dr. Luke is a “limited purpose public figure” due to his self-acknowledged prominence in the music industry, which means he must meet a higher standard than “private figures” when suing for defamation. Specifically, he must prove that Kesha knew her statements about him were either false or probably false, not merely that she did not do her due diligence before making her statements.
On April 15, 2022, NWLC, alongside Equal Rights Advocates, joined an amicus brief submitted by Legal Momentum to the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division (the state’s second-highest court) in Gottwald v. Sebert in support of singer-songwriter Kesha, who was sued in 2014 for defamation by Dr. Luke, her former producer who sexually abused her in 2005 when she was 18 years old. In November 2020, New York extended its protections against defamation liability to include survivors who speak out about sexual abuse. However, a lower court in New York held that the new law does not protect Kesha because Dr. Luke sued her for defamation before the law was passed—even though she continues to battle the defamation lawsuit today, well after the law’s passage. The amicus brief explains that sexual abusers are increasingly using defamation lawsuits as a retaliatory weapon against their victims, and that the New York law explicitly includes people who face “continued” retaliatory lawsuits—like Kesha—within its protections. Indeed, amici highlight that a number of state and federal courts in New York have already agreed that the new law applies at least to pending cases that are continued after the law’s passage.
On December 14, 2022, the three amici submitted a motion for leave to file a similar amicus brief to the Court of Appeals of the State of New York, the state’s highest court.
NWLC led another amicus brief in support of Kesha on a separate legal issue – learn more here.