Defamation case against Trump to move forward
- Author: Tracy Klein Mar 21, 2018,
Mar 21, 2018, 8:00
A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled that President TrumpDonald John TrumpLieu: There will be "widespread civil unrest" if Trump fires Mueller Attorneys for Trump, Mueller hold face-to-face meeting to discuss potential interview topics: report Trump tariffs not helpful for nuclear talks, South Korea says MORE's job in the White House does not give him immunity from a defamation lawsuit filed against him by former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos.
Zervos alleged in the lawsuit that she and her business were damaged after Trump's derogatory statements about her in the wake of her sexual misconduct allegations against the president.
Trump had also argued that he's immune from lawsuits in state court, citing the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Trump's lawyers said that as president, he is immune from civil litigation, an argument that did not convince NY judge Jennifer Schecter.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
When Zervos spoke out in the weeks before the presidential election in 2016, Trump denied her claims. Trump is separately embroiled in a scandal involving a $130,000 payment to an adult film actress - Stephanie Clifford, who performed under the name Stormy Daniels - who alleges he's attempting to prevent her from discussing a sexual relationship she had with him in 2006.
Trump took to Twitter after the October 2016 press conference to deny the allegations, calling them "made up events THAT NEVER HAPPENED", "100% fabricated and made-up charges", and "made up stories and lies".
Zervos filed the defamation lawsuit in state court in January 2017, claiming that Trump's comments harmed her reputation.
The ruling came the same day that Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, filed a lawsuit on the other side of the country against American Media, owner of the National Inquirer, seeking to be released from a contract she said paid her $150,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.
Trump's attorney Marc Kasowitz had asked the judge to toss or delay the case until the president left office, arguing that "there can't be any curtailment" on his duties.
"No one is above the law", Justice Jennifer Schecter wrote in her 18-page ruling on Tuesday.
This means that Summer Zervos' complaint will now move forward.
John Diamond, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said Trump would have to testify under oath if he has to defend himself.
"In holding that the doctrine of separation of powers did not mandate a stay of all private actions against the president, the court flatly rejected that 'interactions between the judicial branch and the executive, even quite burdensome interactions, necessarily rise to the level of constitutionally forbidden impairment of the executive's ability to perform its constitutionally mandated functions", Schechter said of the 1997 case.
Tuesday's decision is likely to be appealed and will probably reach the state's highest court, and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, said Mezey.