Blake Shelton Big Legal Victory In Defamation Case

4/19/2016 10:47 AM PDT

Blake Shelton Gets Big Legal Victory in Defamation Case

EXCLUSIVE

Blake Shelton just scored a big victory in his defamation lawsuit against In Touch ... the judge squarely rejected the magazine's bid to have the case thrown out ... and the judge scoffed at the editor's assertion they never wrote he was in rehab ... just that he should go.

The judge was clear ... the magazine was telling its readers Blake had an alcohol problem and went to rehab. The judge said false claims of rehab are libelous ... period. That's bad for In Touch.

The judge went even further ... saying the magazine knew full well when they published the story that Blake had not been to rehab. And, the judge said, the fact that they ran the headline anyway is powerful proof of malice -- something Blake needs to show to win the case.

One more interesting thing ... In Touch pointed to some of Blake's tweets in which he talks/jokes about him being a drunk. The magazine claimed since he cultivates an image of a hard-drinking party boy he can't sue for defamation. The judge called BS on that claim.

The case will now proceed to trial.