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Former Artforum Employee Files Appeal Against Publication and Co-owner Knight Landesman

Amanda Schmitt’s lawyer calls the dismissal of her case earlier this year a misapplication of the law, pleading under New York City Human Rights Law.

New York State Supreme Court (photo via Tristan Reville/Flickr)

In December 2018, a New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed former Artforum employee Amanda Schmitt’s lawsuit against Artforum magazine and Knight Landesman, Artforum’s co-owner and former publisher, for alleged defamation and slander. Today, March 18, Schmitt’s attorney, Emily Reisbaum, filed an appeal with the NYS Supreme Court combatting the judge’s motion under New York City Human Rights Law.

Schmitt filed a lawsuit in October 2017, alleging that while she was an employee at Artforum Landesman “singled her out for unwelcome sexual attention […] touching her, uninvited, on her hips, shoulders, buttocks, hands and neck.” Schmitt said that Landesman continued to harass her, through email and in person, after she terminated her employment at the publication in 2012. In June 2016, Schmitt sent Landesman a text message saying: “You have been sexually harassing me since 2012 and continue to do so. I want it to stop.”

She then met with two of the magazine’s other publishers, Charles Guarino and Danielle McConnell, to show them Landesman’s messages. In June of 2016, Guarino assuring Schmitt in an email that he would take action regarding the allegations. However, Schmitt says she continued to receive messages from Landesman, and she no longer received invitations to Artforum events.

The statute of limitations for a sexual harassment case against Landesman had expired by 2017 when she filed her first lawsuit. Instead, her case against Landesman detailed a May 2017 incident in which he allegedly berated her in a restaurant, calling her a liar, which Schmitt’s lawyer identifies as defamation and slander. Artforum is included in the lawsuit for breaching its promise to protect her against Landesman’s continued advances and defamation.

“When Schmitt reported Landesman’s harassment of her and others to Artforum in May 2016, Artforum admitted this was not the first time it had heard of Landesman’s harassing behavior and promised to end it,” today’s appeal details in its preliminary statement.

Just hours after Schmitt’s lawsuit was filed, Landesman resigned as publisher of Artforum, though he remains a co-owner of the publication. Schmitt’s lawyer also writes, “That same day, Artforum issued a statement admitting that his sexual harassment had created a ‘hostile work environment’ for its employees.”

In January, however, New York Supreme Court Justice Frank P. Nervo ruled that Landesman had confronted Schmitt in a “purely social setting” in which he was allowed to defend himself. The judge also dismissed Schmitt’s claim against Artforum.

The appeal claims that “[t]he lower court erroneously dismissed [Schmitt’s] claims” and misapplied the law.

Schmitt’s lawyer is pleading the following: “Landesman’s years of sexual harassment, Artforum’s complicity, and the desperate efforts of both to save their skins by publicly ruining Schmitt’s reputation in the art business in retaliation for her courage to complain about Respondents’ [Landesman and Artforum‘s] conduct.”

They continue:

In dismissing Schmitt’s claims against Respondents — for retaliation, defamation and slander, promissory estoppel, and gross negligence — the lower court failed to credit her allegations, ignored the affidavits she submitted in opposition to Respondents’ motions, made inferences in Respondents’ favor instead of in Schmitt’s, and misapplied the law, leading to this appeal. This Court should reverse the lower court’s decision, reinstate Schmitt’s Complaint in its entirety, and remand for further proceedings.

At the time of publication, Artforum has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

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