Trump’s Appeal in Defamation Case Dismissed by N.Y. Court

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The defamation suit against Donald Trump filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos is back on track after New York’s highest court agreed the case should continue now that the onetime reality-TV host is no longer president.

Trump had argued the U.S. Constitution placed him, as president, beyond the reach of state courts. In a brief order, the New York state Court of Appeals said Tuesday that the argument was moot.

Zervos, who claims Trump sexually assaulted her more than a decade ago and then defamed her by calling her a liar, has said she’ll seek to question Trump under oath in the case, one of several legal threats facing the former president as he maps out his political future. E. Jean Carroll, another accuser whom Trump has called a liar, is also planning to depose him in a defamation suit.

“Now a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice for Ms. Zervos, and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims,” her lawyer, Beth Wilkinson, said in an emailed statement.

Zervos in February asked the court to throw out the appeal after Trump lost his bid for re-election, and Trump didn’t challenge the request. Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s lawyer, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Tuesday’s order. He has previously said Zervos filed the lawsuit as a political statement.

Trump’s presidential immunity argument was previously rejected by a trial judge. In March 2019, an intermediate appellate court in Manhattan also said Trump could be sued, saying that a “president is still a person” and “he is not above the law.” Trump appealed to the state’s highest court.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997’s Clinton v. Jones that presidents can be sued in federal court.

Zervos, who met with Trump in hopes of securing a job after her TV appearance in 2005, sued Trump three days before he took office, accusing him of defaming her for denying her allegation that he’d groped her and forcefully kissed her at Trump Tower and at his bungalow in the Beverly Hills Hotel in California. Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations.

In 2019, a judge made public phone records that Zervos said backed her claim of an encounter with Trump in December 2007 in Los Angeles. The documents were unsealed after the Trump Organization gave up its claim that the records were confidential. Zervos claims the records demonstrate Trump’s interest in meeting her, while Trump’s lawyer argues she was “pestering Mr. Trump for a job.”

The case is Zervos v. Trump, APL-2020-00009, New York state Court of Appeals.

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