Kesha and Dr. Luke’s Defamation Trial Gets Start Date

A New York judge has scheduled a July trial for Dr. Luke’s defamation lawsuit against Kesha over her accusations of rape against the producer, setting the stage for a courtroom showdown nearly nine years after the case was first filed.

In an order issued Monday, Judge Jennifer G. Schecter said the trial would start on July 19 and wrap up by July 26. A trial had previously been scheduled to start in February, but with key issues in the case still awaiting rulings by a state appeals court, both sides saw that plan as unworkable.

Dr. Luke, whose full name is Lukasz Gottwald, filed his lawsuit against Kesha in 2014, claiming she had legally defamed him with a “false and shocking” allegation that he drugged and raped her after a 2005 party. He claimed she did so as leverage to secure a more lucrative deal.

After nearly eight years of litigation, a trial on those accusations was long scheduled for February. But as the trial loomed, it became increasingly unclear whether that date would work, since the parties are waiting for New York’s highest appeals court rules on two key issues that will play a central role in the case.

The first is whether Dr. Luke is a so-called public figure — a crucial distinction in a defamation case because the First Amendment makes it much harder for such figures to win a lawsuit. The second issue is whether New York’s newly-enacted “anti-SLAPP” law applies retroactively to the case; the statute, designed to protect free speech against bad lawsuits, would also make it far harder for Dr. Luke to win.

After lower courts sided with Dr. Luke on both issues, Kesha is now asking the New York Court of Appeals to reverse the rulings. The cases are pending, but it’s unclear when the court will rule, leaving in doubt whether the trial could proceed.

In dueling August court filings, the two sides each blamed each other for the slow pace of those appeals and the resulting trial delay.

Kesha’s attorneys argued that she had “done everything in her power to try to ensure that trial will begin as scheduled” but that Dr. Luke had “obstructed her efforts at every turn.” Dr. Luke’s lawyers, meanwhile, said it was “Kesha’s attorneys who have delayed the case for years by endlessly filing meritless appeals, which they have lost time and again.”

Bill Donahue