NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s highest court decided Tuesday to leave a former “Apprentice” contestant’s defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump on hold for months at least.
Summer Zervos is suing Trump for calling her a liar after she accused him of sexual assaulting her in 2007. Her lawyers were trying to get an OK to gather evidence, and possibly question Trump under oath, while the state high court weighs his arguments that the case should be held off until he’s out of office.
The state high court, called the Court of Appeals, denied the request in a one-sentence ruling.
Trump’s lawyers declined to comment. A request was sent to Zervos’ attorneys.
Zervos, a California restaurateur, went public during Trump’s 2016 campaign with allegations that he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping twice in 2007. She had appeared on his reality show “The Apprentice” in 2006 and said she contacted him afterward only to seek career help.
She sued after he retweeted a message calling her claims “a hoax” and described women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment as “liars” trying to hurt his presidential chances.
Trump lost multiple earlier bids to freeze proceedings before a midlevel appeals court said yes in January, weeks before Trump was due to undergo sworn pretrial questioning. The January decision delayed the case at least until the Court Appeals rules on a constitutional argument from Trump’s team: that a sitting president can’t be sued in a state court over alleged behavior outside his official duties.
Zervos’ lawyers said it wasn’t fair to put off evidence-gathering now.
“Ms. Zervos’ injury is prolonged and exacerbated with each day (Trump’s) disparaging statements go unrebutted,” lawyer Beth Wilkinson wrote in a Jan. 31 filing.
Trump’s lawyers said the delay was warranted. They argued it’s wrong for a busy president to have to deal with a lawsuit while there’s still a question of whether it can ever go to trial while he’s in the White House.
“Courts are required to give deference to the president of the United States,” Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz wrote in a Feb. 10 filing, arguing that any “unnecessary distraction” for a president is a loss for the public.
Zervos is seeking a retraction, an apology and damages.
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly.