Judge rules defamation case against Donald Trump may proceed

Lucy Bush
March 21, 2018

President Donald Trump could testify in a defamation lawsuit a former contestant on his reality television show, The Apprentice, brought against him after he lost a bid Tuesday for the suit to be dismissed.

The decision by Justice Jennifer Schecter of the NY state court in Manhattan in favour of California restaurateur Summer Zervos, a former contestant on NBC's The Apprentice, raises the prospect that Trump might have to answer embarrassing questions in court about his behaviour towards women.

"Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the President can not be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility", Schecter wrote.

The case could result in a deposition in which Trump would have to discuss his conduct with Zervos.

The President's team had no immediate comment on Tuesday.

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The decision means that Summer Zervos, who in 2016 accused then-candidate Trump of groping her and pressing his privates against her in 2007, can pursue her defamation case against the president for saying that her allegations were "fiction" and claiming she made them up for "personal gain".

Though Trump insisted during the campaign he had proof these women were all lying and vowed to sue them, no lawsuits materialised.

Summer Zervos with her lawyer Gloria Allred in 2016.

The suit, filed in January 2017, alleged that Trump harmed her reputation by essentially calling her a liar. The US Supreme Court ruled that Jones' lawsuit against Clinton could proceed, arguing that sitting presidents could be sued for private actions that predated their time in office; Trump's attorneys have argued that case applied to federal litigation and did not apply in state courts.

They've argued that Trump can't be held responsible for the remarks he made because they were said during a heated presidential campaign, and that those comments amount to political speech protected under the First Amendment.

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Summer Zervos, right, arrives at the New York County Criminal Court on December 5, 2017.

Judge Jennifer Schecter today denied a motion made by Trump's lawyers to either dismiss the case or issue a continuance until the president leaves office. "We are grateful for the opportunity to prove that that defendant falsely branded Ms. Zervos a phony for telling the truth about his unwanted sexual groping", said Zervos's lawyer, Mariann Wang. 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.

The ruling could subject Trump to extremely broad questions about this case and similar ones, and he might be forced to testify under oath and provide documents, said Naomi Mezey, a professor at Georgetown Law School and an expert on civil procedure.

Also on Tuesday, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump, filed suit in California to release her from a legal agreement requiring her to stay silent.

Although Trump now must respond in court to the complaint, an immediate appeal is highly likely. "The events never happened".

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Other reports by Info About Network

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