Summer Zervos' lawsuit against President Donald Trump can proceed, court rules

Donald Trump and Summer Zervos

Enlarge Image Donald Trump and Summer Zervos EPA Reuters

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.

Summer Zervos, who appeared on the NBC reality show in 2006, filed a lawsuit against Trump alleging that he defamed her during the presidential campaign after slamming her sexual harassment complaints as "fabricated and made-up".

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

Zervos sued for libel in 2016, claiming Trump "immediately lied" after her accusations went public, saying he'd never met her at a hotel or "greeted her inappropriately", her lawsuit reads.

Zervos, an "Apprentice" contestant in 2005, accused Trump of kissing her against her will at a 2007 meeting in NY, and later groping her at a Beverly Hills hotel.

The decision means that President Trump may have to sit for a sworn deposition, which is now scheduled for June. Several other women have also accused Trump of improper sexual conduct.

"We believe that the well-reasoned dissenting opinion by 2 of the 5 justices, citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Clinton v. Jones case, is correct in concluding that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution bars state courts from hearing cases against the President while he or she is in office", Kasowitz said in a statement.

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Zervos' lawyers said Trump's words were factual falsehoods that subjected her to threats and cost her business at her Southern California restaurant. Attorney Marc Kasowitz argued before a lower court that the Supremacy Clause meant that a state court can not have jurisdiction over a sitting president. That paved the way for Clinton's impeachment the following year.

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

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

She says she didn't go public with her allegations for nearly a decade because she admired Trump as a businessman and thought he had had just a couple of episodes of bad behavior with her. The Court upheld a lower court's ruling that the case against the President can continue.

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

"We are very pleased that the First Department has affirmed once again that Defendant is not above the law", Zervos' attorney Mariann Wang said in a statement.

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