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Federal Judge: Trump Waited Too Long to Invoke Immunity in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Claim

— June 29, 2023

A federal judge found that, even if Trump were entitled to absolute immunity from defamation claims relating to his behavior while President of the United States, he waited too long to invoke the defense.

A federal judge has denied former President Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit, determining that Trump’s arguments were “without merit.”

According to CNN, Trump filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss Carroll’s original lawsuit, which was filed in 2019.

In his petition, Trump said that he should be entitled to immunity, because he was serving as President of the United States at the time.

However, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied Trump’s request, noting that the former president had already waived any right to immunity to which he may have otherwise been entitled.

“There is no basis for prolonging the resolution of this litigation further by permitting Mr. Trump to raise his absolute immunity defense now at the eleventh how when he could have done so years ago,” Kaplan wrote in his order.

Donald J. Trump speaking at a Republican summit in 2015. Image via Flickr/user:Michael Vadon. (CCA-BY-2.0)

POLITICO reports that, in his decision, Judge Kaplan observed that absolute immunity defenses are typically considered affirmative defenses, or defenses that must be proactively invoked by the defendant.

“Such a requirement would contradict the results in many of the other civil lawsuits filed against Mr. Trump for actions during his presidency, in at least one of which … Mr. Trump agreed with the plaintiff that absolute presidential immunity was not a ‘threshold issue that must be decided before reaching the merits,’” Kaplan wrote.

Kaplan further opined that, as E. Jean Carroll is now approaching her 80s, any delay to the trial could have unexpected consequences.

“She is now 79 years old and, as just mentioned, has been litigating this case for more than three and a half years,” he said. “There is no basis to risk prolonging the resolution of this litigation further by permitting Mr. Trump to raise his absolute immunity defense now at the eleventh hour when he could have done so years ago.”

CNN notes that Trump’s legal team has other outstanding motions.

The case is nevertheless expected to move to trial in early 2024.

Robbie Kaplan, an attorney for Carroll—and of not relation to the presiding judge—has since praised the ruling.

“Judge Kaplan’s denial of summary judgment confirms that once again, Donald Trump’s supposed defenses to E. Jean Carroll’s defamation claims don’t work,” Kaplan said in a statement. “Trump chose to waive presidential immunity and now he must live with the results of that decision.”

“Today’s decision removes one more impediment to the January 15 trial on E. Jean’s defamation damages in this case,” she added.

Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said that the former president intends to pursue all remaining defenses.

“We disagree with the Court’s decision and we will be taking the appropriate steps to preserve all viable defenses,” Habba said.


Judge denies Trump motion to dismiss Carroll defamation lawsuit

Judge rejects Trump’s ‘presidential immunity’ defense in second E. Jean Carroll case

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