'Apprentice' contestant's Trump defamation suit can proceed

Sergio Conner
March 15, 2019

An appellate court in NY ruled Thursday that a lawsuit by a former "Apprentice" contestant who accused President Trump of unwanted kisses and groping can proceed - shutting down claims by his lawyers that Trump is immune from defamation lawsuits while in office and raising the specter that he will have to sit for sworn questioning.

Zervos's attorney Marianne Wang eagerly awaits the opportunity to prove her client's claims correct in a court of law where, as U.S. Judge Amy Berman Jackson noted Wednesday, "facts still matter".

Trump's lawyers have said that because he is the president he's immune from any prosecution, but the court didn't agree.

Trump's attorneys had argued that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution shielded Trump from the claim, but Justice Dianne Renwick wrote that the clause was "never meant to deprive a state court of its authority to decide cases and controversies under the state's constitution".

Two of the five justices on the panel, Peter Tom and Angela M. Mazzarelli, said in a dissent, written by Mazzarelli, that subjecting the president to a state trial court's jurisdiction "interferes with his ability to carry out his constitutional duty of executing the laws of the United States". "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". She says he made the unwanted advances the next year during get-togethers she hoped would yield career advice.

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Zervos has claimed that Trump forcibly kissed and groped her during a December 2007 encounter at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. In the suit, she demands that Mr. Trump apologize and retract his statements, and asks for unspecified damages.

In subsequent media appearances, Zervos also has claimed Trump's infamous Access Hollywood comments and his subsequent denial of claims from several women who claimed he assaulted them led her to speak out.

Trump's lawyers have said the case shouldn't go forward while he's in office.

"Despite the suggestion in his brief that he is the "embodi [ment of] the Executive Branch and though he is tasked with significant responsibilities, the President is still a person, and he is not above the law", the appeals court panel wrote".

The current schedule sets a deadline of June 28 for depositions, with document and electronic discovery expected to be concluded by the end of July.

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