President Donald Trump is not protected by “presidential immunity” from having to defend himself while in office against a lawsuit brought by a contestant on “The Apprentice” whom he mocked as a liar after she alleged he groped her, a New York State justice ruled on Tuesday.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schachter, citing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed a sex harassment lawsuit by Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton to go forward, said the defamation suit by Summer Zervos wouldn’t affect Trump’s ability to carry out his duties.
“No one is above the law,” Schachter wrote.
Zervos claimed in the lawsuit that Trump kissed and groped her in unsuccessful come-ons in 2007. She came forward during the presidential campaign in 2016 after other women complained about his behavior. He called her claims a hoax and fabrication, and she sued for defamation.
In the Jones case, the Supreme Court said federal civil suits over nonofficial behavior were not barred against Clinton. Zervos brought her case in state court, but Schachter said that didn’t change the result.
“A lengthy and categorical stay is not justified based on the possibility that, at a moment’s notice, the President may have to attend to a governmental or international crisis,” she wrote. “If and when he does, of course, important federal responsibilities will take precedence.”
The judge gave Trump’s lawyers 10 days to file an answer to the lawsuit, which was filed three days before his inauguration.