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Trump fails again in effort to duck 'Apprentice' defamation suit

Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

A New York appellate court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump's attempt to block the defamation suit of an Orange County, Calif., woman who says he lied during the 2016 campaign about sexually assaulting her at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The court's 3-to-2 ruling enables Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice," to press forward toward a Manhattan trial of her allegation that Trump defamed her by branding her a liar in the weeks before he was elected president.

Trump's legal team argued that the U.S. Constitution immunizes him from state court lawsuits arising from his private conduct before he took office.

The court disagreed, opening the way for Trump to be deposed about what Zervos says was a sexual assault in his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007.

"Should the trial court find it necessary to require the president to testify, it could allow him to do so by videotape, as has been the custom in recent proceedings involving sitting presidents," Justice Dianne T. Renwick wrote in the majority opinion.

Zervos attorney Mariann Wang said she was pleased the court affirmed Trump was "not above the law."

 

"We look forward to proving to a jury that Ms. Zervos told the truth about (Trump's) unwanted sexual groping and holding him accountable for his malicious lies," she said.

Trump attorney Marc E. Kasowitz said the president will appeal the decision to the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.

"We respectfully disagree with the majority decision in the Appellate Division," he said.

Kasowitz said he agreed with a dissenting opinion by Justice Angela M. Mazzarelli that state courts are barred from hearing cases against a sitting president.

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