Trump Delay in Carroll Suit ‘Sign of Weakness,’ Lawyer Says
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s last-minute attempt to place a hold on E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit is a “sign of weakness” and should be denied, a lawyer for the New York advice columnist told a judge.
Trump’s motion late Thursday to stay Carroll’s case while he fights to let the government replace him as a defendant was made about 12 hours before a Friday hearing in federal court in Manhattan. The move “is just the latest chapter” in a series of improper delay tactics used by the president to derail the suit, attorney Joshua Matz said at the hearing.
Carroll alleges Trump raped her two decades ago in department store dressing room and defamed her by calling her a politically motivated liar when she went public with her allegation last year. She has been trying to push ahead with discovery, including deposing Trump under oath and securing a DNA sample.
“With each step forward in my lawsuit against Donald Trump, Trump’s lawyers try to drag the case three steps back,” Carroll said in a statement after the hearing. “I won’t be silenced, and I look forward to having my lawyers respond to Trump’s latest attempt to deny me my day in court.”
The request for a stay was filed by Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz, who argues the case should be halted while the Justice Department appeals to replace Trump as the defendant under a federal law intended to protect government employees from lawsuits over actions that relate to their work. U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in October rejected the Justice Department’s substitution and planned to move ahead with the case while the U.S. appealed.
“For someone who has so emphatically denied sexually assaulting Ms. Carroll, and has so brazenly slandered her for daring to speak up, Mr. Trump sure seems desperate to avoid the justice system,” Matz told Kaplan on Friday. “That desperation is a sign of weakness and fear.”
The last-minute request to stay the case during the appeal, effectively derailing a long-delayed evidence-disclosure process, “is the kind of gamesmanship that gives the rest of us lawyers a bad name,” Matz said.
Paul J. Burgo, another lawyer for Trump, apologized to the court at the Friday hearing. “We were under the mistaken impression that the court would not want to proceed with the discovery conference” during the appeal, he said.
During Friday’s hearing, Kaplan asked if any lawyers from the Justice Department wanted to respond to Matz’s remarks, but Matz informed the judge they weren’t on the call.
“Interesting,” Kaplan said.
The judge didn’t issue a ruling on the stay request and gave Carroll a Dec. 17 deadline to file a formal response.
In October, Kaplan held that Trump isn’t a federal “employee” under a law that allows the U.S. to replace government workers as defendants in lawsuits over actions taken as part of their job. Trump’s statements about Carroll were not made as part of his presidential duties, the judge said. Had Kaplan allowed the substitution, the case would have been dismissed because the government can’t be sued for defamation.
Either way, Trump won’t be a government employee much longer, and it’s unclear what President-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department and a likely different attorney general will do with the legal action when his new administration gets underway in January.
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