In a move that could have big implications for the much-investigaed ex-Celebrity Apprentice host, a NY state appeals court today shut down Trump's ongoing desire to dodge Summer Zervos' legal action in its affirmation of a lower court ruling that POTUS can't get out of the case just because he is in the Oval Office.
Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said he planned to appeal to New York's highest court.
A state court judge last summer denied a motion by Trump's attorney to dismiss the suit, which accuses Trump of lying in response to Zervos' claims that he groped her in a Beverly Hills hotel and kissed her on the lips while she was on the show in 2007.
Zervos was among over a dozen women who came forward during Trump's 2016 campaign with allegations of sexual misconduct years earlier. On one occasion, she claimed that Trump groped her in a hotel, even after she tried to push him away.
Zervos, a Republican who appeared on The Apprentice in 2006, accused Trump of kissing her against her will at a 2007 meeting in NY, and later groping her at a Beverly Hills hotel.
The appeals court cited the Paula Jones case, a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that refused to delay Jones' civil harassment suit against then-President Bill Clinton. Several other women have also accused Trump of improper sexual conduct.
Judge Renwick "wrote that the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution - which generally says that when state and federal law conflict, federal law prevails - did not override a state court's authority to decide cases under the state's own constitution", Buzzfeed's Zoe Tillman explains.
Justice Jennifer Schecter originally allowed the case to proceed in March of previous year, arguing that nothing in the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause suggests the president is immune from civil lawsuits. In short, she was able to file a suit against Trump because he publicly called her a liar.
All five justices found Zervos' defamation claim legally sufficient, without ruling on its merits.
The judges said in an opinion written by Justice Dianne T. Renwick: 'The current sitting President attempts to shield himself from consequences for his alleged unofficial misconduct by relying upon the constitutional protection of the Presidency. In a June 2018 lawsuit, the Attorney General claimed the foundation was operated as a "shell corporation that functioned as a checkbook" for Mr. Trump, his campaign and businesses.
Zervos appeared on "The Apprentice" in 2006, when Trump was the reality show's host.
Defendant's reading of the Supremacy Clause - that it bars a state court from exercising jurisdiction over him because he is the "ultimate repository of the Executive Branch's powers and is required by the Constitution to be "always in function" -- finds no support in the constitutional text or case law.
"We are very pleased that the First Department has affirmed once again that (Trump) 'is not above the law, '" Wang said in a statement Thursday.