March 26, 2018

President Trump Must Defend Defamation Litigation in State Court

LEGAL UPDATE: President Trump Must Defend Defamation Litigation in State Court | PN Lawyers

Twenty years ago, the United States Supreme Court held that Bill Clinton, a sitting president, was not immune from being sued in federal court for unofficial acts. Clinton v Jones, 520 US 681 (1997).

The question presented to the court in this week’s case is whether a sitting president (Donald Trump) could be sued in state court for defamation.

During the presidential campaign in 2016, Summer Zervos, a former “fired” contestant on The Apprentice, along with her counsel, held a press conference at which she publicly described her interactions with Mr. Trump in detail, including his unwanted sexual misconduct. The candidate responded immediately: "'To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago. That is not who I am as a person and it is not how I've conducted my life." The candidate continued to deny the charges in different media platforms.

Summer sued the candidate in New York state court, alleging that he made defamatory statements about her "knowing they were false and/or with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity". She stated that as a direct result of the false statements and being "branded a liar who came forward only for fame or at the manipulation of the Clinton campaign," she suffered emotionally and financially. She stated that the candidate's statements contained numerous false representations about her, "including that [her] description of being subjected to unwanted sexual touching by defendant was a lie, phony, a hoax and 'made up,' and that [she] was motivated by fame and/or directed by Clinton or the Democrats," and that she "suffered at least $2,914" in financial losses because her restaurant lost business.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers filed a motion stating that state court had no jurisdiction over a sitting President of the U.S.A.  The Court disagreed, stating: “No one is above the law.” The court ruled that there is absolutely no authority for dismissing or staying a civil action related purely to unofficial conduct because a party is the President of the United States.  

Here is the case: Zervos v. Trump


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