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Political Litigation

Federal Court: Trump Waited Too Long to Claim Presidential Immunity in Defamation Case

— December 13, 2023

The court found that, had Trump wished to propose a presidential immunity defense, he should have raised it at an earlier stage–not three years into litigation.

A federal appeals court has found that Donald Trump forfeited his right to assert presidential immunity in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case.

According to The Associated Press, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a lower court ruling that reached a similar conclusion. In its ruling, the Appeals Court determined that, if Trump had been entitled to immunity, he should have raised that defense when Carroll filed her claim against him in 2019.

Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, has since said that the ruling is “fundamentally flawed,” and that Trump’s legal team intends to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for Carroll, said that the case will now move to trial in January.

“We are pleased that the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Kaplan’s rulings and that we can now move forward with trial next month on January 16,” said Kaplan, who is not related to Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.

Carroll’s lawsuit, adds The Associated Press, seeks more than $10 million in damages from Trump.

As has reported before, Carroll published a memoir in 2019 alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store some time in 1996. Trump has long denied ever encountering Carroll, going so far as to say that they had never even met.

Former President Trump. Image via Flickr/user: Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0)

The lawsuit was filed when, in 2019, Trump denied the allegations to a public audience, telling viewers that he had never met Kaplan and that she was not his “type.”

Earlier this year, a jury found that Trump was civilly liable for abusing Carroll, but rejected her claim that such abuse could constitute rape. The jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages for sexual abuse and defamation.

Trump repeatedly denied the claims, but waited years to suggest that he could not be sued for remarks he had made while president.

But on Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit Court rejected this argument, saying that Trump’s lawyers should have raised it earlier.

“First, Defendant unduly delayed in raising presidential immunity as a defense,” the appeals court wrote in its decision. “Three years passed between Defendant’s answer and his request for leave to amend his answer. A three-year delay is more than enough, under our precedents, to qualify as ‘undue.’”

The appeals court, notes The Associated Press, expedited its adjudication of the presidential immunity issue.

The impending trial, scheduled for January 16, will more precisely determine what damages Carroll should receive.


Appeals court denies Trump’s ‘presidential immunity’ argument in defamation lawsuit

Trump loses immunity bid in Carroll defamation suit, to seek Supreme Court review

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