NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York state appeals court on Thursday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to dismiss a defamation lawsuit by a former contestant on his television show “The Apprentice” or delay it until after he leaves the White House.
In a 3-2 decision in favor of former contestant Summer Zervos, the Appellate Division in Manhattan said the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause did not deprive state courts of authority to decide cases arising under state constitutions, even if they involved sitting presidents.
Despite suggesting that he embodies the executive branch and has significant responsibilities, “the President is still a person, and he is not above the law,” the court said.
The decision may allow Zervos’ lawyers to question Trump under oath about whether he defamed her by calling her a liar after she accused him of sexual misconduct.
But the split decision likely foreshadows an appeal, perhaps to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
A lawyer for Trump was not immediately available for comment.
Zervos’ lawyer Mariann Wang said in a statement: “We look forward to proving to a jury that Ms. Zervos told the truth about defendant’s unwanted sexual groping and holding him accountable for his malicious lies.”
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli