Judge tosses parts of suit vs. HFPA

Pair of defamation claims rejected, but unfair biz practices remain

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has thrown out portions of a suit filed against the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. by its former publicist, Michael Russell.

Judge Kevin C. Brazile dismissed a pair of Russell’s claims of defamation involving a charitable endeavor he had helped set up for the show called Stars for a Cause, as well as defamation claims against HFPA president Philip Berk. Brazile cited “simply a lack of admissible evidence” in making his decision.

He refused to dismiss another of Russell’s claims for unfair business practices. Russell, along with co-plaintiff Stephen LoCascio, alleges that the HFPA failed to pay them their full wages and engaged in retaliation against their P.R. firm.

Russell’s suit, filed three days before this year’s Golden Globes telecast, generated attention in that he charged that some of its members had engaged in a kind of payola — or acceptance of perks in exchange for votes. In its own countersuit, the HFPA said that Russell “manufactured a fanciful tale of Hollywood intrigue” but “never came forward with an iota of documentation” as evidence.