In a lengthy opinion, a split New York appeals court rejected President Trump’s argument that he was immune from a defamation lawsuit by virtue of his position as President. The plaintiff in the libel suit is former Apprentice contestant, Summer Zervos. With this opinion, President Trump joins President Clinton as contributors to the jurisprudence clarifying the contours and extent of presidential immunity. The appellate court in Zervos v. Trump relied heavily upon Clinton v. Jones, the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court opinion which held that presidents aren’t immune from civil actions in federal court based on purely private conduct.
The underlying defamation lawsuit stems from statements made by Trump during his campaign. Following release of a video depicting Trump making crude comments about women, Zervos held a press conference in which she accused Trump of kissing her twice in 2007 and attacking her and making unwanted sexual advances in a Beverly Hills hotel room.
Trump responded to Zervos’s accusations with a flurry of statements saying “I never met her at a hotel” and that the “allegations are 100% false. . . . They are made up, they never happened.” In several tweets and at campaign rallies, Trump further responded to the accusations of Zervos and others claiming, “I didn’t know any of these women,” and “didn’t see these women” and their allegations were “100 percent fabricated and made-up charges, pushed strongly by the media and the Clinton campaign.”
Zervos followed these statements by filing a defamation suit alleging that Trump’s statements amounted to branding her a liar which damaged her reputation in the community. Zervos seeks actual and punitive damages from the President. Ms. Zervos’s attorney, Gloria Allred, announced the lawsuit days before President Trump took office. Continue reading ›