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Blake Shelton’s Tabloid Libel Suit Will Move Forward, Judge Rules

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A judge in California has ruled that Blake Shelton‘s lawsuit against the publisher of InTouch Weekly will move forward, despite the company’s claim of protected speech.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Judge Christina A. Snyder handed down a ruling on Monday (April 18), slapping down Bauer Media’s claim that their story alleging the singer was in rehab for alcohol abuse falls under the protections of California’s anti-SLAPP statute. SLAPP suits — or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation — are legal actions brought against “people or organizations because they have exercised their First Amendment right to free speech or to petition the government,” according to the California Anti-SLAPP Project.

Bauer Media argued that the claim Shelton sought treatment for alcohol abuse couldn’t be libel because “it would be entirely commendable for Shelton to seek rehab considering his undisputed history of bragging about his own drunkenness and his well-publicized behavior while under the influence of alcohol.”

Judge Snyder did not accept that argument, instead finding that the headline alone — which read ‘The Real Story: REHAB for Blake’ — supports a libel claim.

“No courts appear to have held that defamation claims premised upon false reports of treatment in rehabilitation must fail, as a matter of law,” Judge Snyder writes. “This Court accordingly declines to be the first.”

The ruling means that Shelton’s $2 million lawsuit against Bauer Media will move forward to the next phase. He brought the action in October of 2015, just weeks after InTouch published a cover story claiming his binge drinking had contributed to his divorce from Miranda Lambert and was affecting his job performance.

In court documents that became public in March, Shelton emphatically denied the allegations in the piece, refuting them one by one.

“Not only was I not in rehab or headed to rehab when it was published, but I also do not have a drinking problem,” he states. “All of this was false and went so far beyond prior stories about me that I had previously denied with humor.”

The country superstar and coach on The Voice goes on to acknowledge his public banter about drinking, calling it “part of my schtick with my fans” and saying that it “in no way indicates that I have an actual problem with alcohol.”

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