Published: Fri, March 15, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

'Apprentice' contestant's lawsuit against President Donald Trump may proceed, court rules

'Apprentice' contestant's lawsuit against President Donald Trump may proceed, court rules

The 3-to-2 ruling by the NY appellate court enables Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice," to press forward toward a Manhattan trial of her allegation that Trump defamed her by branding her a liar in the weeks before he was elected president.

In a 3-2 decision on Thursday, the Appellate Division in Manhattan said the US Constitution did not strip state courts of power to decide cases arising under state constitutions, even if they involved sitting presidents.

Ironically, they cited the Supreme Court's ruling of Clinton v. Jones, which decided the president could be sued in office relating to unofficial acts that have nothing to do with his role as president. "We will seek to appeal the majority decision to New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, which we expect will agree with the dissent".

Judges in the appellate division of the first judicial department agreed with Zervos, saying the Supreme Court's decision "did not encroach upon the exercise of the executive powers of the President" and that the Supremacy Clause was "never meant to deprive a state court of its authority to decide cases and controversies under the state's constitution".

The decision, which increases the prospect that Trump could have to sit for sworn questioning in the lawsuit, was not unanimous.

"We reject defendant President Trump's argument that the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution prevents a New York State court - and every other state court in the country - from exercising its authority under its state constitution". He also issued a statement denying it.


The dissenting judges said the lawsuit would interfere with Mr Trump's job as President, and should wait until he left office.

In the lawsuit, Zervos alleged that Trump "wrongly smeared her" and subjected her to threats by claiming that the accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment were lies.

Zervos appeared on "The Apprentice" in 2006, when Trump was the reality show's host. She says he made the unwanted advances the next year during get-togethers she hoped would yield career advice. In the suit, she demands that Mr. Trump apologize and retract his statements, and asks for unspecified damages.

She came forward in October 2016, the month before Trump was elected, after an "Access Hollywood" recording showed Trump speaking in vulgar terms about women.

"Despite the suggestion in his brief that he is the "embodi [ment of] the Executive Branch and though he is tasked with significant responsibilities, the President is still a person, and he is not above the law", the appeals court panel wrote". A deposition has been scheduled for some time before the end of June.

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