Brett Ratner rape accuser seeks dismissal of his 'threadbare' libel suit against her

Accused of rape, producer/director Brett Ratner slapped back against his accuser, Melanie Kohler, with a libel lawsuit. Now she's asking a judge to slap his suit out of court. 

Kohler's pro-bono legal team, led by civil rights attorney Roberta Kaplan, filed a motion in federal court in Hawaii on Tuesday, seeking dismissal of Ratner's suit, which he filed in November. 

Kohler, who lives in Hawaii, argues the case should be dropped because it's "threadbare" and a "blank piece of paper" that fails to meet basic legal standards of specificity, and amounts to an attempt by a rich and powerful Hollywood mogul to chill Kohler's First Amendment rights by overwhelming her with expensive litigation.

She also argued that Ratner's suit is "an apparent effort to intimidate other women from speaking out" on a matter of current public concern, namely the alleged sexual misconduct of Ratner and scores of other Hollywood men brought down in recent months by a tide of allegations of harassment and assault dating back decades.

Melanie Kohler urges women to speak out: Brett Ratner rape accuser urges victims to 'have the courage to speak out'

Kohler is not the only woman who has accused Ratner of misconduct but she is the only one he has sued. Indeed, aside from Bill Cosby, Ratner is the only major entertainment figure accused of sexual misconduct in recent months who has gone to court against an accuser. 

Ratner filed his suit just days after Kohler wrote a Facebook post in October alleging that Ratner raped her a dozen years ago in Los Angeles where she was working for a talent agency. (She deleted the post a few hours after hearing from Ratner's lawyer, Marty Singer.)

Ratner denies her allegation and that of a half-dozen other Hollywood women. Nevertheless, he was forced to withdraw from all of his production company's projects at Warner Bros., and Playboy Enterprises shelved a Hugh Hefner biopic he was set to direct and produce.

Kohler's motion asserts that Ratner's suit lacks any "factual allegations" necessary to bring a libel lawsuit. It merely says that Kohler's Facebook post was "false, fabricated and fictional," without explaining why and without providing any motive for Kohler to lie, her motion says. 

Who else has been accused?: List: All of the Hollywood power players accused of sexual assault or harassment

"As the Supreme Court has made clear, such threadbare, conclusory allegations are patently insufficient as a matter of law," her motion asserts. 

To Kohler's legal team, Ratner's suit smells like a SLAPP suit — a strategic lawsuit against public participation — as is thus limited by California's anti-SLAPP law. These suits are generally barred, the motion says, because they're aimed at "deterring future litigation" and halting speech on important matters of public discourse.

"A public figure like (Ratner) cannot lawfully chill speech about his conduct by filing a complaint that merely recites the elements of his cause of action," the motion says. "Stripped of its conclusory allegations the (suit) is essentially a blank piece of paper."

At the very least a plaintiff who sues over a dispute involving the First Amendment must "make a preliminary showing of a likelihood of success before the case can proceed," the motion argues. Ratner's suit fails to do this, Kohler argues, and thus should be dismissed. 

Kohler's team of lawyers is led by Kaplan, who helped dismantle the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act with her victory in the 2013 Supreme Court case that made federal benefits available to couples in same-sex marriages.

Neither Ratner's lawyer nor his firm, Lavely & Singer, returned a message from USA TODAY seeking comment. 

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