New York State’s highest court on Thursday rejected an appeal from President Trump in a defamation case brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who alleges that Trump groped and kissed her without her consent in 2007.
This is the third time Trump’s attempt to halt discovery in the case and a possible deposition of the president has failed.
In a brief order, the New York Court of Appeals, on procedural grounds, rejected the president’s attempt to dismiss the case or delay it until after he leaves office. The court ruled that Trump’s appeal is premature because there has not been a final determination of his motions in the lower courts.
But the president’s legal team was undaunted.
“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.
Kasowitz has claimed that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution bars a state court lawsuit against a sitting president and has said “this issue will likely reach the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The president has denied he sexually assaulted or harassed women, including Zervos, before he took office.
Zervos sued Trump in 2017 just before he took office, claiming he falsely called her a liar. As part of the case, she is seeking to question him under oath.
“New York’s highest court has rejected Defendant’s motion for a stay,” Zervos’ attorney Mariann Wang said in a statement. “This is now the third time the courts have rejected Defendant’s effort to block the progress of this case. We look forward to continuing the discovery process and exposing the truth.”
Naomi Mezey, a professor of law at Georgetown Law, said Trump's attorneys have been fighting at all costs -- with good reason.
"Discovery is a minefield for Trump, which is why his lawyers have been working so tenaciously to try and avoid it," Mezey said.
Judge Jennifer Schechter ordered that certain documentary evidence be produced by September and depositions be completed by January.
Zervos is asking for “special damages” of almost $3,000 plus damages for emotional harm and business loss and for punitive damages.
Mezey compared Trump's legal situation to former President Bill Clinton, and believes the president may have reason to worry.
"That is where Clinton ran into trouble," she said, referring to a potential sworn deposition of Trump. "And it’s almost certainly where Trump will run into trouble, where the sound bites are going to meet some of the facts."