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Woman suing Trump asks court: Toss his legal-shield claim

February 9, 2021 Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press
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A former contestant on “The Apprentice” is trying to get her defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump moving again now that he is out of office.

Summer Zervos — who is suing Trump for calling her a liar after she accused him of sexual assaulting her in 2007 — asked New York state’s highest court last week to dismiss an appeal from Trump that had put the case on hold. The appeal had argued that a sitting president can’t be sued in a state court.

Now that he’s out of office, “the issues presented have become moot,” Zervos lawyers Beth Wilkinson and Moira Penza wrote in a filing Wednesday, saying Trump’s lawyers aren’t going to fight the request.

A request for comment was sent to the ex-president’s attorneys.

If the high court, called the Court of Appeals, agrees to dismiss Trump’s appeal, Zervos’ lawyers want the case to return to a trial court for both sides to continue evidence-gathering that could eventually enable Zervos’ lawyers to question Trump under oath, and his to question her. Such evidence-seeking has been frozen since last March while the Court of Appeals considered Trump’s presidential-immunity arguments.

Zervos, a California restaurateur, went public during Trump’s 2016 campaign with allegations that he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping twice in 2007. She had appeared on his reality show “The Apprentice” in 2006 and said she contacted him afterward only to seek career help.

She sued after he retweeted a message calling her claims “a hoax” and described women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment as “liars” trying to hurt his presidential chances.

Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz has said that the former president’s statements were true and protected by free speech rights and that Zervos’ claims are meritless.

Zervos is seeking a retraction, an apology and damages.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly.

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