Trump Apprentice's Defamation Suit Back on Track After Ruling

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(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s legal dispute with a former “Apprentice” candidate who claims he groped her may be heading closer to a trial after a New York appeals court rejected his request to put the case on hold.

Trump has until May 29 to respond to Summer Zervos’s subpoena seeking documents concerning “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.” At least 19 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. He’s denied all those claims.

The state appeals court ruling also opens the door for Zervos to seek other documents in the case -- her lawyer has already requested outtakes from the “Apprentice” and records from a Beverly Hills hotel about Trump’s stay -- as well as a possible deposition from the president.

Even before addressing the issue of the subpoena concerning the other women, Trump has until May 22 to file a formal answer to the lawsuit, in which Zervos claims he defamed her by saying she lied when she said he groped and forcibly kissed her. The following day, Zervos’s and Trump’s lawyers are scheduled to appear before New York State Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter for a status conference.

“We look forward to proving Ms. Zervos’s claim that the defendant lied when he maliciously attacked her for reporting his sexually abusive behavior,” Zervos’s lawyer Mariann Meier Wang said in a statement.

Zervos met with Trump in hopes of securing a job after her “Apprentice” appearance in 2005. She claims he “ambushed” her on more than one occasion starting in 2007, kissing her, touching her breast and pressing his genitals against her.

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Schecter in March rejected Trump’s request to throw out her lawsuit, writing “No one is above the law.” On Thursday, the state appeals court rejected Trump’s request to put the suit on hold while he appeals Schecter’s ruling.

Trump has called the lawsuit politically motivated, saying Zervos can’t hold him liable for engaging in political speech that’s protected by the First Amendment. He has said she continued to attempt to contact him and seek employment even after he made the alleged unwanted sexual advances -- and only turned against him after he failed to accept an invitation to her restaurant.

Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz called the appeals court’s decision incorrect.

“It is also completely and unjustifiably contrary to the stays the courts uniformly granted when deciding whether a lawsuit against President Clinton could proceed in federal court,” Kasowitz said in an emailed statement. “There is no valid reason in this case -- in which plaintiff is seeking merely $3,000 in damages and which plaintiff’s counsel has repeatedly insisted was brought for political purposes -- for the court not to grant the requested stay.”

The case is Zervos v. Trump, 150522/2017, New York Supreme Court, New York County.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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