Court Battles

New York appeals court rules defamation suit against Trump can move forward


An appeals division of the New York state Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Trump’s bid to have the defamation lawsuit a former contestant on “The Apprentice” brought against him tossed out or put on hold.

In a 3-2 ruling, New York’s Appellate Division, First Department said the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution does not provide blanket immunity to the president from having to defend himself against a civil damages action brought against him in a state court, citing a case brought against former President Clinton.

{mosads}“Despite the suggestion in his brief that he is the ‘embodiment of the Executive Branch,’ and though he is tasked with significant responsibilities, the President is still a person,” Justice Dianne Renwick wrote in the court’s majority ruling.

The case was brought by Summer Zervos, who claims that Trump wrongly smeared her by calling her a liar during his 2016 presidential campaign after she accused him of having made unwanted sexual advances in 2007.

Zervos claimed Trump repeatedly kissed her, including in one instance “very aggressively,” placed his hand on her breast and pressed his genitals against her.

The majority based its ruling on the Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Clinton v. Jones. In that case, the court ruled unanimously that the Constitution does not grant a sitting president immunity from civil litigation in federal court except under highly unusual circumstances.

In a dissenting opinion, which Justice Peter Tom joined, Justice Angela Mazzarelli said the Supreme Court noted that cases brought against a sitting president in a state court could be different.

She said “subjecting the President to a state trial court’s jurisdiction imposes upon him a degree of control by the State of New York that interferes with his ability to carry out his constitutional duty of executing the laws of the United States.”

Zervos’s attorney Mariann Wang hailed the court for its ruling.  

“We are pleased that the First Department has affirmed once again that Defendant ‘is not above the law,’ ” she said in a statement.  

“The case has proceeded in the trial court and discovery continues. We look forward to proving to a jury that Ms. Zervos told the truth about defendant’s unwanted sexual groping and holding him accountable for his malicious lies.”  

— Updated at 2:02 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Sexual misconduct The Apprentice
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