Attorneys for President Donald Trump argued on Tuesday that a defamation lawsuit filed by a former contestant on “The Apprentice” accusing him of sexual harassment should be dismissed.
Summer Zervos filed the suit in January, accusing Trump of unwanted sexual touching and likening his behavior to a “sexual predator who had preyed on her and other women,” according to a statement from her attorney, Gloria Allred.
Zervos has accused Trump of kissing and groping her without her consent. She filed the suit after Trump said he had never met her at a hotel or acted inappropriately, according to Allred’s statement, and called her statements lies, as well as those of other accusers.
Following the arguments in New York Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice Jennifer Schecter said she would read all the case law and make a decision over whether the case could proceed, but did not give a timeline for that ruling.
Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz said state court should not have jurisdiction over a sitting president and that the case would have to be delayed at least until he’s out of office.
“Thomas Jefferson made clear that the president’s responsibilities are [24/7],” he said, adding, “there can’t be any curtailment, any direct control over” the office of president.
One of Zervos’ attorneys, Mariann Wang, argued that Trump “is not above the law” and that someone accused of groping shouldn’t be able to “get off scot-free.”
“The fact of the matter is it is defendant’s burden to establish that there is a reason for delay,” she said during the hearing, adding that while being president is a 24/7 job, “it’s also true that he’s also a human being and does not do his job 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Wang told Schecter that she would be flexible with the president’s schedule.
She also argued that Zervos has been “physically threatened, she was called horrible names on the phone in person,” and that the president made “factual, plainly derogatory” statements against her.
Kasowitz, however, argued the president’s statements are protected political speech, and that Zervos “saw fit three weeks before the election to come forward and make claims about the president.”
Following the hearing, Allred said she did not know when Schecter would reach a decision, but that she was “a very thoughtful judge.”
“We just want to say no man is above the law, including the president of the United States,” she said, standing next to Zervos. “Our position is that this case should not be stayed for potentially seven years until such time that the president may leave office, that that would be prejudicial to our client.”