Amanda Schmitt, a former Artforum employee who says she was sexually harassed by the magazine’s former co-publisher, Knight Landesman, for years, is appealing a judge’s decision last month to dismiss her defamation, slander, and retaliation lawsuit against him and the magazine.
The New York state court judge Frank Nervo “wrongly decided the case against us, and we are looking forward to the appeal,” said Schmitt’s attorney, Emily Reisbaum, who filed the notice of appeal today.
Schmitt claims that Landesman harassed her while she worked at the magazine, first as an intern and later as a circulation assistant, and after she left Artforum in 2012. She alleges that when she later brought his behavior to the attention of the magazine’s three other co-publishers, they did nothing to stop him and, in fact, retaliated against her by making defamatory statements about her to the press and to Artforum staff. Landesman, too, attempted to humiliate her in front of her art world colleagues during a dinner, she said in her complaint.
But the statute of limitations for bringing a sexual harassment suit had run out by the time Schmitt filed her claims in 2017, and the judge decided that Artforum was not responsible for Landesman’s behavior toward Schmitt after she’d left the job. “Landesman’s alleged bad act was not made while he was under Artforum’s control,” the judge wrote. “At most, Artforum assumed a moral obligation; however, such an obligation does not create a legally enforceable duty.”
Schmitt’s appeal, however, will argue that this is inaccurate because the New York City Human Rights Law does in fact apply to former employees and because Landesman was widely recognized as the public face of Artforum and was, therefore, operating on its behalf at all hours.
Schmitt “appeals from each and every part of the judgment,” the new notice says. This includes the judge’s failure, according to Schmitt’s attorneys, to address one of her key arguments. This centers on Artforum‘s alleged defamation of Schmitt in the press, namely, when its publishers released a statement saying that Schmitt’s allegations were “unfounded” and seemed “to be an attempt to exploit a relationship that she herself worked hard to create and maintain.”
Schmitt’s attorneys will file a brief with the appeal’s complete arguments in the coming months.
Landesman resigned from Artforum the day after the accusations were published in artnet News last fall. Afterward, dozens of other women spoke out with stories alleging a similar pattern of sexual misconduct and abuse of power at the hands of Landesman. He remains a partial owner of the magazine, along with its three other publishers.
Schmitt was recently named a Time magazine “Person of the Year,” which last year collectively honored women who came forward to take a public stand against sexual misconduct.
Artforum declined to comment on the appeal. An attorney for Landesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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