Dave Hester can move forward with the wrongful termination portion of his wide-ranging lawsuit against A&E and the producers of Storage Wars, a judge ruled today. In a hearing Tuesday in LA Superior Court, Judge Michael Johnson rejected the network’s free speech related attempt to dismiss the wrongful termination aspect of the former reality cast member’s nearly 10 month old legal action. Citing the First Amendment and California’s anti-SLAPP statute, A&E had argued that Hester’s suit would effectively hand him control over who they could put on the hit reality show. Johnson didn’t agree. “Plaintiff’s contract expressly states that Defendants had no obligation to use Plaintiff on the program during the term of their agreement. Plaintiff is suing to recover money, and not to inject himself into the program,” wrote Johnson in a tentative ruling issued before this morning’s hearing. Hester sued A&E and Storage Wars’ producers Original Productions back in December 2012. At the time he called the show a staged “fraud on the public” and claimed he was suddenly kicked off the storage locker auction series before the fourth season when he complained about their methods. Hester is seeking over $750,000 plus punitive damages that could add up to millions more. The judge today also rejected A&E’s motions to dismiss the punitive damages. The first round of the case went A&E’s way when Johnson threw out the unfair business practices claims of the former series star’s suit against the network and the producers on March 12. That loss for Hester lead to Judge Johnson ordering him to pay a $122,692 portion of the defendants’ legal fees. Johnson also agreed in March with A&E and Original that their First Amendment rights would be violated if the court were to let to Hester’s attorneys’ request for an injunction against Storage Wars for the alleged staging of the show. Marty Singer and Hester’s other lawyer Allison Heart of Lavely & Singer have now removed that request from the suit in an amended complaint. A&E and Original Productions are represented by Kelli Sager, John LeCrone and Michelle Bussarakum of LA firm Davis Wright Tremaine. Storage Wars returned for a fourth season on April 16 – without Hester.