Associate Justice Dianne Renwick of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court ruled Monday that a defamation suit brought against Donald Trump by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos can move forward, despite arguments by Trump’s lawyers that the case should be stayed and that their previous attempt to have it dismissed deserved “special considerations.”
Zervos initiated the case in 2017, essentially saying that Trump called her a liar when she said he had assaulted her. Zervos first alleged in 2016 that Trump forcefully kissed her twice on the lips during a meeting in his Manhattan office in 2007, and then again in Beverly Hills, where she says he also grabbed her breast. In denying the claim, Trump retweeted a picture of Zervos with the caption, “This is all yet another hoax.”
Trump’s lawyers immediately moved to dismiss the case, claiming the President is immune to such suits in state courts and that his statements about Zervos were Constitutionally protected political speech. An appellate panel dismissed that motion in 2018, citing the 1997 Clinton v. Jones harassment suit, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a sitting President is not immune from being sued in federal court for unofficial acts. In March, a New York appellate court upheld the ruling in 3-2 decision, with Renwick writing on behalf of the majority, “We reject defendant President Trump’s argument.”
This time around, Trump’s legal team argued, “A stay is necessary given the novel and important Constitutional issues involved, the special considerations due the President’s requests for interlocutory appeals and to prevent irreparable harm.”
In rejecting the motion, the judges cleared the way for Trump to face deposition by Zervos’s lawyers.
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