N.Y. Appeals Court Rules Trump Can’t Avoid Summer Zervos’ Defamation Suit

Cheryl Sanders
March 16, 2019

The 3-to-2 ruling by the NY appellate court enables Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice," to press forward toward a Manhattan trial of her allegation that Trump defamed her by branding her a liar in the weeks before he was elected president.

The New York State Appellate Division's First Department turned down Trump's argument that the case should be halted until he is out of office because, as a sitting president, he was immune from a lawsuit brought in state court.

A state court judge last summer denied a motion by Trump's attorney to dismiss the suit, which accuses Trump of lying in response to Zervos' claims that he groped her in a Beverly Hills hotel and kissed her on the lips while she was on the show in 2007.

Zervos was among 19 women who publicly accused Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign of sexual misconduct dating back years earlier.

He called the women "liars" trying to harm his campaign with "100 percent fabricated" stories, and he retweeted a message specifically calling Zervos' claim "a hoax".

Ms Zervos has repeatedly accused Mr Trump of kissing her against her will at a 2007 meeting in NY, and later groping her at a Beverly Hills hotel.

The judges cited the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Clinton v. Jones, which ruled that presidents can still be sued while in office for unofficial acts.

She came forward after the "Access Hollywood" recording which showed Trump boasting about groping women.

Trump's attorneys had argued that the suit could not move forward because it would violate the Supremacy Clause-which elevates the Constitution and federal laws over state laws-by interfering with Trump's ability to do his job.

Zervos' lawyers say Trump's words were falsehoods that subjected her to threats.

Despite suggesting that he embodies the executive branch and has significant responsibilities, "the President is still a person, and he is not above the law", the court said.

All five justices found Zervos' defamation claim legally sufficient, without ruling on its merits.

'Instead, we find that the Supremacy Clause was never meant to deprive a state court of its authority to decide cases and controversies under the state's constitution'.

That paved the way for Mr Clinton's impeachment the following year.

Trump also faced a defamation claim by adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit over a hush money agreement.

Mariann Wang, attorney for Zervos, said in a statement, "We are very pleased that the [court] has affirmed once again that Defendant 'is not above the law.' The case has proceeded in the trial court and discovery continues". Trump claims that Zervos made numerous attempts to contact him and seek employment even after the alleged sexual harassment occurred.

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