Civil Rights Groups Rally Around Kesha in Battle With Dr. Luke

After last week's legal setback, women's rights organizations are again stepping up to defend the singer.

Civil Rights Groups Rally Around Kesha in Battle With Dr. Luke
Photo:L: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images, R: Richard Shotwell/Invision (AP)

Kesha just got some good news amid the ongoing defamation trial leveled against her by former collaborator Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald a.k.a Dr. Luke. A group of women’s civil rights groups have filed a friend of the court brief in support of the singer/songwriter to bolster her long-slogging legal fight. Legal Momentum, Equal Rights Advocates and the National Women’s Law Center filed the brief in New York State Supreme Court on Friday, arguing that Gottwald’s suit against the singer amounts to continued harassment of a sexual assault victim.

These groups positioned Kesha’s fight as a typical experience of sexual assault survivors who decide to publicly name their abusers. These groups—which include the first and longest-serving national nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to vindicating women and girls’ rights—detail how legal action is used to harass and intimidate victims of all income levels. Though Kesha is a well-known artist and celebrity, her continued legal battle continues to cost her hundreds of thousands. Using the court to continue the cycle of abuse legitimizes the harm she experienced and puts her, the victim, in the position of needing to rehash their abuse over and over again in an attempt to move past the incident.

“When the abusers have money to hire lawyers, that retaliation often comes in the form of turning the law that is supposed to protect survivors into the instrument to torment and threaten. Retaliatory litigation by abusers has grown drastically, motivating the legislature to amend the Anti-SLAPP law,” the brief reads. “Sexual assault is already drastically underreported, as survivors fear disbelief or punishment for speaking up—an often-founded result.”

In November 2020, the state of New York amended its anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law to protect survivors publicly speaking out about abuse allegations. As the lawsuit against Kesha was filed prior to the amendment, the groups contend, she’s still grappling with lawsuits for publicly talking about her assault.

“This Court’s decision holds that the legislature meant to fix this ‘broken system’ only for those who happened to be sued after the amendments’ effective date—and did not intend to help the very people whose plight it cited as the reason for amending the law, since they had already been sued,” the brief read. “In so doing, it departed from a substantial consensus in trial courts across the state and federal courts applying New York law that the statute was intended to apply at least to pending cases continued after its effective date.”

The brief comes on the heels of a Thursday decision by an appellate judge, who upheld a ruling that said Kesha would be unable to enter evidence her attorneys have dubbed as “critical” to her defense. The evidence includes handwritten notes from 2006 penned by one of the musician’s former attorneys, as per Billboard.

Gottwald’s legal battles with Kesha go back nearly a decade. He sued Kesha for defamation after the singer made public allegations against him in 2014. She alleged that Gottwald had “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused [her] to the point where [she] nearly lost her life” and that he also done so to Katy Perry. In February 2020, a New York state supreme court judge ruled that Kesha had defamed Gottwald when she “made a false statement to Lady Gaga about Gottwald that was defamatory per se” and that there was “no evidence whatsoever that [Dr. Luke] raped Katy Perry.”

“Perry unequivocally testified that Gottwald did not [rape her]. In response, Kesha has not raised a triable issue. There is no evidence whatsoever that Gottwald raped Katy Perry, or that Katy Perry, whose sworn testimony is unrefuted, must not be believed,” Judge Jennifer G Schechter wrote.

Kesha was ordered to pay royalty fees to Gottwald’s record company, which amounted to more than $373,000. Dr. Luke has since claimed that he’s lost $46 million in “business opportunities.”

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