A judge said Monday she is inclined to allow Blake Shelton's defamation lawsuit against the publisher of In Touch Weekly to proceed based on a headline that proclaimed the country star was headed to rehab.
U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder delivered her tentative ruling Monday in Los Angeles, saying it appeared In Touch "cherry-picked" facts to support its "Rehab for Blake" headline that appeared on a September 2015 magazine cover.
Shelton sued Bauer Publishing Co. in October over the headline and an accompanying story that included several anecdotes of the country music star's supposed drunken antics. Shelton, who is a judge on NBC's "The Voice," denies several key events in the story occurred and states he does not have a drinking problem.
Bauer's attorney Elizabeth McNamara said if Snyder's ruling becomes official, it will be appealed. She urged the judge to reconsider basing her ruling on In Touch's headline, and instead said the judge should focus on the allegations of Shelton's excessive drinking, which she said there was enough evidence to support.
McNamara said the Grammy-nominated singer had created his "entire reputation around excessive drinking."
Snyder, however, said a jury should decide whether the implication that Shelton needed rehab was defamatory. She said she intended to issue a ruling in a few days.
Shelton's attorney Stanton "Larry" Stein attacked McNamara's arguments and In Touch's story, saying they were completely false.
"This is a man who functions professionally," Stein said. He rejected the notion that In Touch's story was based on actual events, saying anecdotes the tabloid relied upon are "absolutely 100 percent false."
Snyder urged the attorneys to settle the case, saying it would be costly for both sides if it went through an appeal.
The "Boys 'Round Here" singer has also denied the magazine's claims, writing in a sworn declaration submitted to Snyder, "Not only was I not in rehab or headed to rehab when it was published, but I also do not have a drinking problem.
Shelton, 39, noted the September 2015 story came at a time when he was working on new music, negotiating endorsement deals and when his role hosting Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards was about to be announced.
"I felt that the rehab story jeopardized both my personal and professional reputation and that I needed to do everything I could to set the record straight," Shelton wrote.