Judge Rules Summer Zervos' Case Against Trump Can Move Forward Because "No One Is Above The Law"
On Tuesday, a New York State Judge ruled that former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos' lawsuit against Donald Trump can move forward. The justice in the case, Jennifer Schecter, did not agree with Trump's legal team's assertion that a state court does not have any jurisdiction over a current president. As the Justice wrote, “No one is above the law ... It is settled that the president of the United States has no immunity and is ‘subject to the laws’ for purely private acts.”
Zervos is suing the president for defamation. According to the New York Times, back in October of 2016, Zervos accused Trump of non-consensually kissing and groping her on two separate instances in 2007. As Variety reported, Trump denied Zervos' allegations, saying her and other sexual misconduct allegations against him were “100 percent, totally and completely fabricated." The outlet also reported that Trump threatened to sue "all of these liars."
The Times noted that, two months after the presidential election, Zervos filed a lawsuit against Trump. Zervos said Trump defamed her by characterizing her account of his alleged sexual misconduct as a fabrication. However, Trump's lawyers tried to argue that the lawsuit should not be able to proceed. The president's legal team suggested that New York's State court has no jurisdiction over the president and that the president's comments should be protected as political speech under the First Amendment.
However, the aforementioned judge disagreed, saying that Zervos should not be prevented from seeking due process merely because Trump is the president of the United States. As Reuters reported, the judge's ruling now increases the likelihood that Trump may now have to respond to questions in court about his alleged behavior toward women.
Reuters also indicated that a White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment on the issue. However, one of Zervos' lawyers, Mariann Wang, did issue a statement indicating that she was pleased the case could proceed. As Wang noted (via Reuters), "We are grateful for the opportunity to prove that that defendant falsely branded Ms. Zervos a phony for telling the truth about his unwanted sexual groping.”
Zervos' lawsuit is one of several legal issues Trump is currently facing. As the Washington Post reported, on Tuesday a former Playboy playmate, Karen McDougal, sued the National Enquirer owner for the right to speak out about the alleged 10-month affair she had with Trump many years ago. Trump denied the affair, with a White House spokesperson saying (via the New Yorker), "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal."
Moreover, as the Post also reported, in the past few weeks Trump has received a great deal of attention for allegedly having an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. The president also allegedly knew that his lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged an alleged non-disclosure agreement with Daniels, in which Cohen paid her $130,000. According to a White House spokesperson, as reported by Politico, Trump has "denied all of these allegations."
The New York Times also reported that Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, said he used his own money in transactions associated with the nondisclosure agreement and that the Trump Campaign and the Trump Organization were not at all involved with these transactions.
As Zervos' lawsuit moves through court, some believe that it could prompt more women to seek legal action against the president. As CNN reported, Lisa Bloom, who represents several other women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct, shared this sentiment with the network, saying, "I applaud the decision to allow Summer's case to go forward ... It is clearly the law that a sitting president can sue and be sued. I hope this will encourage other women to come forward."