Judge Rejects Trump’s Effort to Dismiss First E. Jean Carroll Defamation Lawsuit

Judge Rejects Trump’s Effort to Dismiss First E. Jean Carroll Defamation Lawsuit
(Left) President Donald Trump comes out of the Oval Office from the White House on Sept. 16, 2019. (Right) E. Jean Carroll (C) leaves following her trial at Manhattan Federal Court in New York on May 8, 2023. (Mandel Ngan, Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts
6/30/2023
Updated:
6/30/2023
0:00

Former President Donald Trump’s effort to dismiss one of the two lawsuits filed against him by writer E. Jean Carroll was rejected by a federal judge on June 29.

Trump had attempted to have the court dismiss a lawsuit filed by Carroll in 2019 accusing the then-president of defaming her when he denied having raped her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in 1995 or 1996.

Carroll also filed a second lawsuit against Trump in 2022 accusing him of battery and defamation after the New York State Legislature passed a law known as the “Adult Survivor Act,” which grants victims of certain sexual offenses a one-year window to file a civil lawsuit against alleged offenders.

Her first lawsuit had been wrapped up in legal disputes, however, the writer won in her second defamation suit against Trump just last month and a jury ordered he pay her $5 million in damages, including $2 million in damages for sexual abuse and around $3 million for defamation.

The nine-member jury found that Carroll did not prove that Trump raped her but instead found that the businessman and 2024 presidential candidate sexually abused her.

With regard to Carroll’s first lawsuit, lawyers for Trump had argued that the case should be dismissed on the basis that he was entitled to absolute presidential immunity, that his statements were “not defamatory per se,” that the majority of his statements were “non-actionable opinion,” and that Carroll consented to the allegedly defamatory statements.

Trump has repeatedly denied raping Carroll.

E. Jean Carroll speaks onstage during the How to Write Your Own Life panel at the 2019 Glamour Women Of The Year Summit at Alice Tully Hall in New York on Nov. 10, 2019. (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Glamour)
E. Jean Carroll speaks onstage during the How to Write Your Own Life panel at the 2019 Glamour Women Of The Year Summit at Alice Tully Hall in New York on Nov. 10, 2019. (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Glamour)

Trump Claims Have ‘No Merit’

However, in a 46-page ruling (pdf) on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of New York disagreed with the arguments made by attorneys for Trump and said they are without merit.

“The conduct at issue here consists not only of what Mr. Trump did (i.e., make public statements in response to Ms. Carroll’s accusation) but also, and importantly, the content of his statements (i.e., what he said in his statements),” the judge wrote.

“Mr. Trump did not merely deny Ms. Carroll’s accusation of sexual assault. Instead, he accused Ms. Carroll of lying about him sexually assaulting her in order to increase sales of her book, gain publicity, and/or carry out a political agenda,” he continued. “Even assuming that the president’s decision publicly to deny an accusation of personal wrongdoing comes within the outer perimeter of his official duties, it does not follow that the president’s own personal attacks on his or her accuser equally fall within that boundary.”

“Mr. Trump does not identify any connection between the allegedly defamatory content of his statements—that Ms. Carroll fabricated her sexual assault accusation and did so for financial and personal gain—to any official responsibility of the president. Nor can the Court think of any possible connection,” Kaplan concluded.

The judge further argued that lawyers for Trump had waited until the “eleventh hour” to raise the absolute immunity defense when they “could have done so years ago” and that it would be unfair to Carroll to let him do so now and further delay case.

Additionally, Kaplan stated that Trump had failed to establish that there is not a “genuine issue of material fact as to whether the prerequisites to a punitive damages award in this case have been satisfied.”

(Left) Former President Donald Trump disembarks his plane at Aberdeen Airport in Aberdeen, Scotland, on May 1, 2023. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images); (Right) Magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll arrives for her civil trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court in New York, on May 8, 2023. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
(Left) Former President Donald Trump disembarks his plane at Aberdeen Airport in Aberdeen, Scotland, on May 1, 2023. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images); (Right) Magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll arrives for her civil trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court in New York, on May 8, 2023. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Trump Files Counterclaim

Robbie Kaplan, Carroll’s lawyer, who is not related to Judge Kaplan, praised the ruling in a statement to Forbes on Thursday.

“Judge Kaplan’s denial of summary judgment confirms that once again, Donald Trump’s supposed defenses to E Jean Carroll’s defamation claims don’t work. Trump chose to waive presidential immunity and now he must live with the results of that decision,” the lawyer said.

Meanwhile, Trump attorney Alina Habba told Reuters, “We disagree with the court’s decision and will be taking the appropriate steps to preserve all viable defenses.”

The latest ruling comes after Trump on Wednesday filed a counterclaim against Carroll accusing her of defamation and making “false statements” after she referred to the alleged incident between herself and Trump as “rape” despite a jury in May finding that she did not prove he had.

Trump’s counterclaim cites a CNN interview Carroll gave on May 10 where she was “specifically asked” about the jury unanimously finding Trump not liable for rape in the case to which she responded, “Oh yes he did, oh yes he did.”

Lawyers for Trump argue in the counterclaim that Carroll’s comments on CNN were made “knowing each of them were false or with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity” and that they were made on television, social media, and multiple websites, “with the intention of broadcasting and circulating these defamatory statements among a significant portion of the public.”

The litigation remains ongoing.

Carroll’s original lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 15, 2024, and she is seeking at least $10 million in damages.

Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.
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