Some months after Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice signaled it would back former President Donald Trump in a lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll, a federal judge refused on Wednesday to let that development prevent the litigation from proceeding in his courtroom.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied Trump’s request for a stay of all proceedings, without comment.
Carroll claims that the former president defamed her by falsely denying that he raped her in the dressing room of the department store Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s, but for roughly a year, proceedings have revolved less around her allegations than whether the case caption should even be Carroll v. Trump.
Late last year, Judge Kaplan rejected an effort by then-Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department to make itself the defendant in the case instead of Trump, a move to transform the case into Carroll v. United States.
More significantly, the substitution raised the specter of scuttling the famed columnist’s lawsuit entirely, making it unlikely to survive federal court jurisdiction. Trump appealed the denial of substitution to the Second Circuit, where the former president found strange bedfellows with Garland’s Justice Department.
“Then-President Trump’s response to Ms. Carroll’s serious allegations of sexual assault included statements that questioned her credibility in terms that were crude and disrespectful,” Garland’s lawyers told the Second Circuit on June 7. “But this case does not concern whether Mr. Trump’s response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll’s allegations.”
For Barr and Garland’s Justice Department, the issue whittled down to one of immunity for actions taken by government officials in their official capacity.
Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan has described it as offensive to argue that Trump acted in his official capacity by responding to her client’s rape allegations by telling reporters: “She’s not my type.”
“There is not a single person in the United States — not the president and not anyone else — whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted,” Kaplan has said in previous statements.
Two Justice Department administrations disagreed with that proposition, and an appeal on that matter continues to be pending before the Second Circuit.
The motion to stay all proceedings pending that appeal that Judge Kaplan summarily rejected was filed by his lawyer Marc Kasowitz on Dec. 10, in the waning days of the Trump administration.
In the letter, Trump’s legal team “respectfully requests that all proceedings be immediately stayed pending appeal.”
As Trump’s lame duck session drew to a close, Carroll’s counsel characterized the motion as a bid to buy time.
“President Trump’s motion to stay proceedings pending appeal is the latest entry in his long list of stall tactics,” Roberta Kaplan, who has no relation to the judge, wrote on Dec. 17. “Like all his earlier efforts, it too should fail. Under binding Second Circuit law, this Court has jurisdiction to decide whether a stay is warranted.”
Despite the plea for immediate relief, some nine months would pass before Judge Kaplan would rule, and when he did, there would be no explanation as to his reasoning.
“We’re looking forward to oral argument in our case before the Second Circuit during the week of November 29. In the meantime, we are reviewing Judge Kaplan’s order,” Roberta Kaplan said in a statement to Law&Crime.
Lawyers for Trump did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
[Images via Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Glamour, MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images]
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