The New York Court Appeals denied Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss the Summer Zervos defamation lawsuit against him. This is the third time the president has tried and failed to get the case tossed or delayed, reports ABC News.
Thursday‘s decision allows discovery in the case to move forward — something that Trump‘s legal team likely fears because it could force the president to testify about his treatment of women, among other things, under oath.
Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, alleges that Trump groped and kissed her in 2007, and she is suing him for publicly calling her a liar when she came forward with her allegations. She is one of more than a dozen woman who have accused Trump of sexual assault or harassment. The president has denied the allegations.
In March, New York State Supreme Court Judge Jennifer Jennifer Schecter ruled that the case against Trump could proceed. Paula Jones‘s lawsuit against Bill Clinton led the Supreme Court, in Clinton v. Jones, to rule that the president could be sued in federal court on matters outside of his role of president. Trump’s lawyers argued that state courts, where Zervos filed her lawsuit, don‘t have jurisdiction over a sitting president. Schecter rejected that argument in March, saying “no one is above the law.”
Trump still has another appeal pending, but Thursday’s ruling basically means Zervos’s attorneys can keep gathering evidence — which could eventually lead to Trump being deposed in the case.
Trump isn’t totally out of options. The court’s decision didn’t rule on the merits of Trump’s argument — whether state courts don’t have jurisdiction over the president — and instead said it couldn’t yet rule on that because the lower court hasn’t made a final decision on the president’s motions.
“The Court of Appeals did not address the merits of the issue at stake here (an issue first raised by the U.S. Supreme Court in Clinton v. Jones) — namely, that, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, state courts do not have jurisdiction over a sitting President,” a spokesperson for the president’s attorney Marc Kasowitz said in a statement to ABC News.
The Zervos lawsuit may seem minor compared to some of Trump’s potential legal troubles. But if it does go forward, the discovery process could reveal evidence about allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump and, if it gets that far, force the president into a deposition.
It might also matter to the just-filed New York attorney general’s lawsuit against Trump and his charity. As University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck pointed out on Twitter, it could also cement “the propriety of the major new suit by [the New York state attorney general] being brought in state — rather than federal — court.”