A ruling two weeks ago by a New York judge could be consequential.
In the year since allegations surfaced against Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul has denied perpetrating nonconsensual sexual acts. At worst, he cops to using his position of power to score sexual favors. As his attorney Benjamin Brafman famously put it, "Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood."
On Aug. 14, however, a federal judge may have punctured any notion of the legality of the so-called "casting couch" in a a first-of-its-kind decision. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet ruled that Weinstein must face a federal claim of sex trafficking in a lawsuit brought by Kadian Noble, who accuses Weinstein of unwanted sexual conduct after promising the aspiring actress work.
Weinstein is now asking Sweet to certify an immediate appeal to take up the issue of what qualifies as a "commercial sex act" under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. Weinstein hopes he'll be given permission for such an appeal so as to limit the potential fallout from Sweet's opinion.
Yes, rape is illegal as is sexual assault. But there are reasons (jurisdiction, statute of limitations, specific facts, damages, etc.) that a plaintiff like Noble would assert a seemingly exotic claim like sex trafficking in court. Now others are following her lead. For instance, just last week another aspiring actress claimed sex trafficking in a new lawsuit against Weinstein. And in the bid for an interlocutory appeal, Weinstein's lawyers express their expectation that some of the other women currently suing him may seek to add a sex trafficking claim based on Noble's success.