President Donald Trump is not required to produce information about women other than Summer Zervos, who says Trump groped her more than a decade ago, who also accuse the president for sexual misconduct for discovery in Zervos’ defamation suit, a state court judge found.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter’s ruling to limit the scope of discovery in Zervos’ suit, in which she alleges that Trump defamed her by calling her a liar, comes as an appeals court continues to mull over a challenge to Zervos’ standing to sue a sitting president in state court.
The ruling, which Schecter read from the bench in a 15-minute hearing on Friday, also deals something of a setback to Zervos’ counsel, led by Mariann Meier Wang, a founding partner of Cuti Hecker Wang; who sought to establish a pattern of alleged behavior by Trump that he frequently set up clandestine meetings with women in his hotel or office, subjected them to unwanted touching and cover it up later with lies or payouts to his accusers.
But Schecter said the information the attorneys seek amounts to “inadmissible evidence of propensity.”
Zervos is the only party in the case, Schecter noted, and that allegations from other women cannot be used in the case to prove whether or not Trump defamed Zervos.
The ruling however was not a complete loss for Zervos’ attorneys in terms of shining a light on how Trump deals with women who accuse him of sexual misconduct: Schecter preserved Zervos’ attorneys’ demands for Trump to hand over any available information concerning how Trump responds to any woman’s allegation that he acted sexually inappropriate toward her, as well as those he has communicated with about handling the accusations.
Kasowitz Benson Torres attorneys Christine Montenegro and Paul Burgo appeared for Trump at the hearing.
Zervos, a California restaurateur and former contestant on “The Apprentice,” alleges that Trump forced himself on her in 2007 when they met in a bungalow in a Beverly Hills hotel.
She mostly kept to herself about the exchange until the months leading up to the 2016 presidential campaign when Trump became the subject of “nonstop” TV coverage and customers at her restaurant began asking questions, Zervos said in a written statement submitted in her case.
“Mr. Trump, when I met you I was so impressed with your talents that I wanted to be like you,” Zervos said. “I wanted a job with your organization. Instead you treated me as though I was an object to be hit upon.”
After Zervos came forward, Trump denied Zervos’ allegations via a statement posted online, saying that he never met her or greeted her inappropriately.
“That is not who I am as a person, and it is not how I’ve conducted my life,” Trump said. In the days that followed, Trump took to Twitter and used campaign trail stump speeches to denounce women that he said were making false accusations against him.
Whether or not Zervos’ defamation case will progress currently rests in the hands of the Appellate Division, First Department, which last week heard oral arguments in Trump’s appeal against Schecter’s decision in March that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not bar a plaintiff from suing a sitting president in state court.
How the First Department decides in the appeal would be a landmark ruling, providing an answer to an open question left by the U.S. Supreme Court when it found in 1997 that President Bill Clinton could be sued in federal court.
On Thursday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla, who presides over the New York Attorney General’s suit against Trump alleging improper use of his charity, said if the First Department rules in Trump’s favor in the Zervos appeal, she may ask the AG’s office to re-plead its case, noting that the Trump Foundation itself would still be a party in its suit.
Manhattan Appeals Court to Mull Whether Trump Must Face Ex-’Apprentice’ Contestant’s Defamation Suit While in Office