Trump loses bid to delay E. Jean Carroll rape defamation case

E. Jean Carroll visits ‘Tell Me Everything’ with John Fugelsang in the SiriusXM Studios on July 11, 2019 in New York.

Noam Galai | Getty Images

A judge on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump‘s to delay answering questions under oath next week in a federal lawsuit accusing him of defaming a writer when he claimed she lied and was motivated by money when she said he raped her in a New York department store in the 1990s.

Judge Lewis Kaplan also denied Trump’s request to substitute the U.S. government into the case as a defendant, replacing him, on the grounds that the alleged defamation of author E. Jean Carroll occurred when he was president.

Kaplan called that request “a second bite at that apple.” He noted that he previously denied a Justice Department motion to substitute Trump as a defendant on the same grounds.

If the government was substituted for Trump in the lawsuit, it would effectively kill Carroll’s case because the government would then invoke the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects it from being sued without consent.

Kaplan’s ruling in Manhattan federal court sets the stage for Trump to be deposed by Carroll’s attorneys on Oct. 19., even as a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., weighs questions that could determine whether her lawsuit can be allowed to proceed.

Carroll is scheduled to be deposed on Friday. In a 2019 New York magazine article, she wrote that Trump raped her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.

More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Trump has denied each accusation.

Wednesday’s ruling also raises the possibility that the defamation case could go to trial in February as currently scheduled while awaiting a ruling in the appeals court.

A federal appeals court in New York last month reversed Kaplan’s earlier ruling that said that Trump was not acting as an “employee” of the U.S. government when he denied Carroll’s allegation. Trump also accused her of making up the rape claim in order to sell a book she wrote, and for political reasons.

Trump’s lawyers then unsuccessfully argued to Kaplan that the government was automatically substituted into the case as the defendant.

The New York appeals court also asked its sister appeals court in Washington to determine whether Trump made the statement about Carroll within the scope of his employment, as defined under local District of Columbia law. The D.C. appeals court has yet to rule on that issue.

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Kaplan said in Wednesday’s ruling that Trump has not shown a required “strong likelihood of success” in that appellate process to warrant further delays in Carroll’s lawsuit, which has been pending since 2019. The judge said that further delaying the case would “cause substantial injury” to Carroll.

“As the Court noted in an earlier opinion in the case, ‘defendant’s litigation tactics have had a dilatory effect, and, indeed, strongly suggest that he is acting out of a strong desire to delay any opportunity plaintiff may have to present her case against him,” Kaplan said.

The ruling comes as Carroll prepares to sue Trump in New York state court under a new law, the Adult Survivors Act, that lifted the statute of limitations of claims of rape and sexual abuse in the state.

Carroll could use Trump’s deposition in the federal case in the planned state litigation, as Kaplan noted in his ruling Wednesday.

“The question whether Mr. Trump in fact raped Ms. Carroll is central to this case,” Kaplan wrote. “But it will be central also to the new case that almost certainly will be filed on November 24, 2022 or soon thereafter.”

“Accordingly, discovery and evidence relating to whether or not the alleged rape occurred is relevant to both cases,” said Kaplan.

Discovery refers to the exchange of evidence and taking of depositions, or testimony under oath, before a case is presented to a jury at trial.

“Mr. Trump has pointed to no discovery or other proceedings that would occur in this case absent a stay that would not be relevant also to the imminent new case,” the judge wrote.

Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, said in a statement, “We are pleased that Judge Kaplan agreed with our position not to stay discovery in this case.

“We look forward to filing our case under the Adult Survivors Act and moving forward to trial with all dispatch,” she said.

Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, said in a statement, “We look forward to establishing on the record that this case is, and always has been, entirely without merit.”

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