Trump Keeps Failing to Derail Contestant's Defamation Suit

(Bloomberg) -- It’s three strikes for Donald Trump in his attempts to delay or derail a lawsuit by a former “Apprentice” contestant. But that doesn’t mean the president is out.

New York state’s highest court on Thursday turned aside Trump’s request to put Summer Zervos’s lawsuit on hold. She claims Trump defamed her when he called her a liar for alleging he groped her.

It’s the third time Trump’s attempts to dismiss or halt the lawsuit have failed. But another appeal of a judge’s ruling denying his request to throw out the lawsuit is still pending.

Trump has argued that the president is immune from the litigation under the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling was just procedural, said Emily Thall, a spokeswoman for Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz. The court said it couldn’t deal with the appeal because it wasn’t based on a final order in the case, she said.

“The court of appeals did not address the merits of the issue at stake here,” Thall said "namely, that, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, state courts do not have jurisdiction over a sitting president.”

Zervos sued Trump in January 2017 claiming he defamed her when he said she lied about the encounters in which she said he forcibly kissed her. Zervos, who met with Trump in hopes of securing a job after her Apprentice appearance in 2005, is one of at least 19 women who have come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct.

She is seeking to question Trump under oath as part of the lawsuit.

"We look forward to continuing the discovery process and exposing the truth," Mariann Wang, an attorney for Zervos, said in a statement.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter in March denied Trump’s bid to dismiss the case or delay it until he leaves office, saying "no one is above the law." Schecter said nothing in the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause suggests that the president is immune from civil lawsuits. A mid-level appeals court last month denied his bid to pause the case while he challenges Schecter’s ruling, and Trump had asked the Court of Appeals to overturn that decision.

Schecter last week set a schedule for an exchange of materials and the filing of submissions. Schecter said the two sides should submit to depositions, with a deadline of Jan. 31, but didn’t rule on whether Trump must be questioned.

Lawyers for both parties didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday’s decision.

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

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