A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that President Donald Trump must remain a defendant in a lawsuit in which he is accused of defaming writer E. Jean Carroll after she said he raped her in the mid-1990s.
Judge Lewis Kaplan denied the Department of Justice’s effort to have the U.S. government replace Trump in the lawsuit.
The DOJ had claimed that the president was acting he was acting as a government employee when he said Carroll was lying and motivated by money after she said that he attacked her in a New York department store dressing room.
Because of that, the DOJ said, the government should be the defendant in Carroll’s civil lawsuit, not the president.
Judge Lewis Kaplan on Tuesday flatly rejected that argument. His ruling came days after a bizarre aborted court hearing in which a DOJ lawyer refused to orally argue his claim on the telephone on the heels of being denied entry into the courthouse because of New York coronavirus restrictions.
“The President of the United States is not an employee of the Government within the meaning of the relevant statutes,” Kaplan wrote in his order, released in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
“Even if he were such an employee, President Trump’s allegedly defamatory statements concerning Ms. Carroll would not have been within the scope of his employment. Accordingly, the motion to substitute the United States in place of President Trump is denied.”
Trump is likely to appeal the ruling.
The decision comes a week before Election Day. Trump is battling former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, for a second term in the White House.
If the DOJ had succeeded in replacing Trump as a defendant in the case, the government, and hence U.S. taxpayers, would have been liable for any money damages to Carroll if the writer had proved her defamation claim.
Kaplan’s ruling noted that the United States government cannot be sued for money damages because of a concept known as sovereign immunity, except if the government explicitly agrees to be sued under the terms of a law known as the the Federal Tort Claims Act.
“The FTCA authorizes damages claims for negligenceand certain other civil wrongs committed bygovernment employees within the scope of theiremployment,” Kaplan noted.
But, the judge pointed out “the FTCA specifically excepts libel and slander cases from the United States’s consent to be sued.”
“Thus, if this really is a suit against the United States, it is one to which the United States seemingly has not waived its sovereign immunity,” which would mean that Carroll’s case might have to be dismissed outright.
The question then becomes whether “Trump is an ’employee of the Government” within the meaning of the FTCA,and if his statements about Ms. Carroll were within “the scope of his employment,”
“The answer to both questions is ‘no,’ : Kaplan wrote.
“While the president possesses all of theexecutive power of the United States, he is not an ’employee’ within the meaning of the FTCA,” the judge wrote.
Kaplan said that the law’s definition of an employee “does not include presidents.”
“And even if the president were an employee under that statute, his statements concerning Ms. Carroll were not within the scope of his employment under the law of the relevant jurisdiction, which for reasons explained below is Washington, D.C.,” the judge wrote.
The president in recent months has lost several legal battles in New York.
In one case, a federal judge denied his effort to bar Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from executing a grand jury subpoena for getting Trump’s income tax returns from an accounting firm. Trump plans to ask the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the subpoena ruling.
In another case, the Trump Organization lost a bid to delay a deposition of the president’s son, Eric Trump, in an investigation being conducted by the New York state attorney general’s office into the valuation of Trump-owned properties for tax and other purposes.
This is breaking news. Check back for updates.
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