A New York state judge on Tuesday said U.S. President Donald Trump must face a defamation lawsuit by a woman who accused him of sexually harassing her after she appeared on his former reality TV show.
The decision by Justice Jennifer Schecter of the New York state court in Manhattan in favor of California restaurateur Summer Zervos, a former contestant on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” raises the prospect that Trump might have to answer embarrassing questions in court about his behavior toward women.
She rejected Trump’s claim that he was immune from being sued, finding “absolutely no authority” to dismiss litigation related “purely to unofficial conduct” solely because he occupied the White House.
In the ruling, the court declared “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 (Clinton, 520 US at 696). In Clinton v. Jones, the United States Supreme Court made clear that “immunities are grounded in ‘the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it’”
Trump’s legal team argued that his status as president meant that he could not be sued for defamation. Schecter smacked that argument down so hard you’d think it owed her money:
Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the President cannot be called to account before a state court for
Mariann Wang, one of Zervos’ lawyers, said in a statement: “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.”