By COLLEEN LONG
NEW YORK (AP) — Lawyers for President Donald Trump argued on Tuesday that a defamation lawsuit filed by a former contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice” who accused him of unwanted sexual contact should at least be blocked while he’s in office because he’s too busy and important.
Summer Zervos was a contestant on the show in 2006 and sued the Republican after he dismissed as “fabricated and made-up charges” her claims that he made unwanted sexual contact with her at a Beverly Hills, California, hotel in 2007. Her lawsuit sought an apology and at least $2,914.
Outside court on Tuesday, Zervos thanked her lawyers and said softly: “Justice prevails.”
Trump didn’t attend.
Trump’s lawyers argued the U.S. Constitution immunizes him from being sued in state court while he’s president and said the case should at least be delayed until he’s out of office. The lawyers said their position is supported by a long line of U.S. Supreme Court cases requiring courts to show deference to the president and his schedule.
No president has sought to delay a lawsuit in a state court while in office, the lawyers and the judge said.
But in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a sitting president was not immune from civil litigation on something that happened before taking office and was unrelated to the office. The ruling came after Paula Jones filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton, husband of Trump’s main opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton. The case was dismissed by a judge.
A footnote in that ruling, though, should be interpreted as saying state courts don’t have the same jurisdiction over the president, Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz argued.
Zervos’ attorneys argued that delaying the case would mean witnesses would forget and documents could be destroyed. Attorney Mariann Wang said the court clearly has the power to hear the case.
Wang said Zervos’ team would be flexible with the president’s schedule and would agree to videotaped depositions if necessary. She said Trump “does not do his job 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
“We can take a deposition down to Mar-a-Lago in between him going to play golf,” she said, a jab at Trump’s frequent visits to his Florida resort.