Trump setback in accuser's defamation case is first of its kind
- Author: Ryan Wade Mar 21, 2018,
Mar 21, 2018, 7:56
A state court judge in Manhattan has ruled that Summer Zervos's defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump for comments he made about her during the campaign can proceed while Trump is in office.
"I never met her at a hotel", responded Trump, who would also attack allegations from his accusers as "100 percent fabricated and made-up charges, pushed strongly by the media and the Clinton campaign".
Justice Jennifer Schecter in the Manhattan Supreme Court said there was "absolutely no authority" to dismiss or stay a civil lawsuit by Summer Zervos related "purely to unofficial conduct" because Trump was USA president.
"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", the judge wrote.
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The case could result in a deposition in which Trump would have to discuss his conduct with Zervos. Trump denied the allegations and called Zervos a liar.
Mariann Wang of Cuti Hecker Wang, who represents Zervos, said of the judge's decision that "rule of law and sound reason have prevailed today". Trump is separately embroiled in a scandal involving a $130,000 payment to an adult film actress - Stephanie Clifford, who performed under the name Stormy Daniels - who alleges he's attempting to prevent her from discussing a sexual relationship she had with him in 2006.
Zervos said in a January 2017 lawsuit that Trump "ambushed" her and, among other things, pressed his genitals against her.
The ruling exposes Trump to potentially embarrassing court proceedings that could drag on for months, if not years.
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Lawyer Gloria Allred with Summer Zervos. Trump sought to block the legal action, but New York Supreme Court Judge Jennifer G. Schecter, citing court precedent that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998, said that "a sitting president is not immune from being sued in federal court for unofficial acts".
In her ruling, Schecter also dismissed a request that the case be stayed for the duration of Trump's time in office, saying that such "a lengthy and categorical stay is not justified" just because a president can be called away to attend to a crisis.
"We are grateful for the opportunity to prove that the Defendant falsely branded Ms Zervos a phony for telling the truth about his unwanted sexual groping".
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. 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. It said she has been free to respond to press inquiries about her relationship with Trump since 2016 and that the suggestion that American Media silenced her is without merit. Attorneys for Trump pushed back on multiple fronts, arguing that the suit was "politically motivated" and was built around "allegations of events that never occurred".
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