A lawyer for President Donald Trump on Monday signaled that he will seek to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Trump in New York, arguing that the President is immune to lawsuits filed against him in state court.
Trump is looking to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed in New York state Supreme Court by Summer Zervos, a past contestant on Trump’s reality television show, “The Apprentice.” Zervos filed the lawsuit in January, after Trump denied her allegations that he kissed and groped her inappropriately in 2007 at a hotel in Los Angeles.
In a filing submitted on Monday, Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, argued that “the United States Constitution, including the Supremacy Clause contained therein, immunizes the President from being sued in state court while in office.” He noted that in Clinton v. Jones, which established that Presidents are not immune from federal lawsuits over actions they took before taking office, the U.S. Supreme Court did not decide whether the President could be sued in state court.
Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court noted in its decision that it was not ruling on presidential immunity for lawsuits filed in state courts, according to Suzanna Sherry, a law professor at Vanderbilt University.
Kasowitz asked the state Supreme Court to decide whether Trump has immunity from the lawsuit before otherwise proceeding with the case. He wrote that “allowing litigation on the merits to proceed prior to resolution of this crucial and threshold constitutional issue would unduly burden the President and would defeat the purpose of Presidential immunity,” and stated that Clinton v. Jones established that courts should address the issue of immunity before taking other actions in such a case.
He wrote that Trump intends to file a motion to either dismiss the case or postpone it until after his presidency.
Sherry told TPM in an email that she suspects the New York state Supreme Court may not dismiss the case on immunity grounds.
“My best guess is that the NY state court will not dismiss on immunity grounds, and the question will eventually end up at the US Supreme Court,” Sherry wrote.
But Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told TPM that there’s a chance a court could dismiss the case because it could occupy a lot of the President’s time.
“In Jones, the Court suggested that a civil suit would not occupy too much of the president’s time. Yet Clinton v Jones led directly to Clinton’s impeachment. Given that history, one might predict the Court would be reluctant to allow more civil suits to go forward during Trump’s term in office,” Winkler wrote in an email.
Read the filing below: