‘Apprentice’ contestant’s Trump defamation suit can proceed

Clay Curtis
March 16, 2019

A NY state appeals court on Thursday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's effort to dismiss a defamation lawsuit by a former contestant on his television show "The Apprentice" or delay it until after he leaves the White House.

Trump's lawyer Marc Kasowitz said the president would appeal to the Court of Appeals, 'which we expect will agree with the dissent'.

From left to right: Summer Zervos, Orange County woman and former "Apprentice" contestant, arrives to New York County Criminal Court on December 5, 2017, in New York.

The decision may allow Zervos' lawyers to question Trump under oath about whether he defamed her by calling her a liar after she accused him of sexual misconduct.

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.

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 decision, which increases the prospect that Trump could have to sit for sworn questioning in the lawsuit, was not unanimous.

The Zervos case has already brought forth dozens of recorded depositions with Trump Organization figures as senior as Allen Weisselberg, the company's CFO, who had been at Mr. Trump's side for decades.

Trump had appealed a lower court's ruling a year ago that allowed the case to proceed, arguing that the Constitution's Supremacy Clause bars a lawsuit against a sitting president in state court because it would interfere with his duties.

They also say his remarks were opinions that he had a free-speech right to express in the course of a heated campaign.

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Trump has denied Zervos' claims and called her case politically motivated. It prompted Zervos to then file the suit.

"The case has proceeded in the trial court and discovery continues", Mariann Wang, Zervos's attorney, said in a statement.

In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court let Jones' case go forward.

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

Defendant's reading of the Supremacy Clause - that it bars a state court from exercising jurisdiction over him because he is the "ultimate repository of the Executive Branch's powers and is required by the Constitution to be "always in function" -- finds no support in the constitutional text or case law.

Zervos appeared on "The Apprentice" in 2006, when Trump was the reality show's host.

"More than 20 years later, the current sitting President attempts to shield himself from consequences for his alleged unofficial misconduct by relying upon the constitutional protection of the Presidency", Renwick wrote.

Trump denied the allegation, writing in a statement at the time that he "never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately".

Zervos is seeking a retraction, an apology, and compensatory and punitive damages.

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