NEW YORK >> New York’s highest court today turned down President Donald Trump’s latest bid to delay a defamation suit filed by a former “Apprentice” contestant who accused him of unwanted groping and kissing.
The ruling by the state Court of Appeals didn’t address either side’s central arguments. But it means evidence-gathering in Summer Zervos’ lawsuit can proceed, at least for now.
Zervos’ lawyer, Mariann Wang, said she looks forward to continuing with the case “and exposing the truth.”
Trump, who denies Zervos’ allegations, is trying to get the case dismissed or postponed until after his presidency. A mid-level appellate court is due to consider that request in the fall.
Trump’s lawyers at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP noted that today’s ruling didn’t speak to their argument for tossing out the case: That a sitting president can’t be sued in a state court.
Instead, the Court of Appeals said the case was simply in too early a stage for its consideration.
Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared in 2006 on the Republican president’s former reality show, “The Apprentice.”
She says he made unwanted advances when she sought career advice in 2007, then defamed her by calling her a liar after she came forward late in his 2016 presidential race. She is seeking a retraction, an apology and compensatory and punitive damages.
Trump’s attorneys have said that his statements were true, and also that his remarks were “non-defamatory opinions” that came amid the heated public debate of a national political campaign.
At a court hearing last week, a judge set deadlines that could make Trump and Zervos answer questions under oath by early next year.
In the meantime, Zervos’ lawyers have issued subpoenas seeking a range of information about Trump’s behavior toward women, including any Trump campaign documents concerning any woman who accused him of inappropriate touching and any unaired “Apprentice” footage that might feature Trump discussing female contestants in a sexual or inappropriate way.
Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz argued last week that the campaign shouldn’t have to turn over any material about other women. A judge hasn’t yet decided.