Friday, 24 May, 2019

Summer Zervos' lawsuit against President Donald Trump can proceed, court rules

Summer Zervos leaves New York state appellate court in 2018. Zervos accuses Trump of unwanted kissing and groping Summer Zervos leaves New York state appellate court in 2018. Zervos accuses Trump of unwanted kissing and groping. Associated Press Mary Altaffer
Patty Aguilar | 16 March, 2019, 21:46

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, can proceed with her defamation lawsuit against President Trump, a NY appellate court ruled Thursday, rejecting the president's assertion he cannot be sued in state court.

The New York State Supreme Court's Appellate Division ruled on Thursday that a sitting president can face civil litigation in state court for unofficial acts that took place prior to their presidency.

But the court ruled on Thursday that the case will move forward, finding that Trump's argument that a sitting president can not be sued in state court "conflicts with the fundamental principle that the United States has a 'government of laws and not of men'".

The president's attorneys have said that the case should not go forward while Trump is in office, arguing that the Constitution does not allow state courts to interfere with the operations of the federal government.

But the split decision likely foreshadows an appeal, perhaps to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Trump is represented in the case by his longtime personal lawyers at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP.

Zervos has said Trump forcibly kissed and groped her during a December 2007 encounter at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

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Zervos's attorney Marianne Wang eagerly awaits the opportunity to prove her client's claims correct in a court of law where, as U.S. Judge Amy Berman Jackson noted Wednesday, "facts still matter".

Zervos first came forward about the incidents during the 2016 campaign, after an infamous Access Hollywood tape emerged showing Trump boasting about grabbing women's genitals. The Court upheld a lower court's ruling that the case against the President can continue.

The appeals court called Ms Zervos's case "materially indistinguishable" from former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones's lawsuit accusing then-president Bill Clinton of sexual harassment.

She says she didn't go public with her allegations for nearly a decade because she admired Trump as a businessman and thought he had had just a couple of episodes of bad behavior with her. Numerous allegations about misconduct at the Trump Foundation were first reported by The Washington Post in 2016.

"The Foundation is little more than an empty shell that functions with no oversight by a board of directors", James said in the filing. It seeks shorter-term bans on charity service for Trump's children Eric, Ivanka and Donald Jr., who were all members of the foundation's board.

Mr Trump has also faced a defamation claim by adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit over a hush money agreement. That lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge in October. Trump also republished on Twitter a post calling Zervos' accusations a "hoax".

Zervos was among over a dozen women who came forward during Trump's 2016 campaign with allegations of sexual misconduct years earlier.

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