As high-profile men toppled due to sexual harassment allegations over the couple of months, Brett Ratner was one of very few who fought back by taking his accuser to court. Ratner filed a libel suit on Nov. 1, accusing Melanie Kohler of damaging his reputation by writing a Facebook post in which she accused him of rape.
Now, his case is exposing the potential downside of that approach. In a legal filing last week, Ratner’s attorneys said they would seek to limit his accuser’s ability to probe into other allegations of sexual misconduct that have surfaced against the producer. Ratner has been accused of forcing women to perform oral sex and masturbating in front of women, as well as various forms of sexual harassment.
Attorney Eric Seitz said he would seek a protective order barring media disclosures in the case, and would also seek to limit the scope of discovery. In the filing, Seitz said he feared that Kohler’s “New York lawyers intend to try this case in the media and to depose and publicize any and all ‘bad acts’ allegedly committed by Plaintiff as a means to show that he likely committed the criminal misconduct she has falsely attributed to him.”
Kohler is being represented pro bono by a team of attorneys led by Roberta Kaplan, most famous for advocating on behalf of same sex marriage benefits in the Windsor case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In an earlier filing, her lawyers indicated they plan to take extensive depositions on the issue of Ratner’s professional reputation, in order to establish to what extent that reputation has been harmed. The attorneys also took note of “reports that he has had dozens of allegations similar to Defendant’s leveled against him.”
In a filing on Friday, Kohler’s attorney Nicholas Monlux argued that Ratner’s request to limit discovery should be denied.
“If Ratner does not want his relevant ‘bad acts’ discovered by Kohler or made part of his public lawsuit, then the solution is not to launch baseless attacks against Kohler or her attorneys,” he wrote. “Rather, the solution is for him to dismiss his meritless lawsuit.”
Ratner’s lawyer also expressed concern that Kohler “is being supported financially by persons and/or entities with unlimited funding” — in essence worrying that Kohler will be able to pursue an extensive fishing expedition against him.
In his reply, Monlux said that concern is “unfounded and irrelevant.” He noted that Kohler and her husband operate a scuba business in Hawaii, and cannot hope to match Ratner’s reported $400 million net worth.
“There is nothing improper about a defendant receiving financial assistance to support her defense,” Monlux wrote. “Ratner may prefer to sue a victim who cannot afford to defend herself, but that preference is not his right, nor is it a basis for limiting discovery in this case.”
Monlux also noted the “hypocrisy” of Seitz’s concern about trying the case in the media.
“Kohler first learned of this case by means of an article published in TMZ, in which Ratner’s attorney apparently provided facts that were not included in the Complaint,” Monlux wrote.
Kohler’s attorneys are expected to file a motion to dismiss Ratner’s suit in the coming days.