Skip to main content

E. Jean Carroll’s Lawyer Is Already Using Supreme Court’s Trump v. Vance Decision Against Trump’s ‘Immunity’ Arguments


US President Donald Trump speaks during an event announcing the Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) Task Force in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 17, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

On Thursday, the Supreme Court held that President Donald Trump was not absolutely immune to the criminal process. On Friday, a lawyer for a woman who has accused the president of rape cited—in the context of a civil case—the day-old SCOTUS decision against the president’s “meritless” claims of “absolute immunity.”

A lawyer for E. Jean Carroll, the author and journalist who claimed President Trump defamed her when he called her rape accusation a lie, wrote the letter on Friday. Attorney Roberta Kaplan filed a notice adding the Supreme Court precedent of Trump v. Vance as a supplemental authority, in order to argue against continued delay of Carroll’s case in state court:

Dear Justice Saunders:

We write on behalf of Plaintiff E. Jean Carroll to provide notice of supplemental authority confirming that Defendant Donald J. Trump’s presidential immunity claim in this action, the sole basis for his motion to stay, see Doc. N. 49, lacks any merit whatsoever. As Your Honor may recall, Trump has moved to stay this action pending the New York Court of Appeals decision in Zervos v. Trump. In that motion, Trump asserted that the Supremacy Clause provides presidential immunity for personal conduct actions pending in state court, even though the Supreme Court has already held that there is no such immunity for identical actions in federal court [citations removed]. In other words, Trump argued that state and federal court are completely different for purposes of assessing presidential immunity. However, the United States Supreme Court resoundingly rejected the central premises of that argument yesterday by a vote of 7-2 in Trump v Vance (2020) (attached as Exhibit A and cited as “Slip op.”). It follows directly from Vance that Trump’s assertions of immunity in this case, as well as his purported arguments for a stay, are completely baseless.

In February, Trump responded to demands that he provide a DNA sample in Carroll’s defamation lawsuit by claiming that her requests were “burdensome.” He then asked the court to delay the proceedings until he is able to fully litigate separate defamation claims brought by former The Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos. That’s what Kaplan was referring to above.

Carroll’s counsel argued that the Zervos case likely wouldn’t be decided until after the 2020 election, meaning Trump was trying to delay the Carroll lawsuit through the Zervos case.

Carroll has claimed that the “Donna Karan coat-dress” she was wearing at the time of the alleged rape has been hanging on the back of her closet door and remained “unworn and unlaundered since that evening.” Carroll claimed that Trump raped her in mid-1990s in a Manhattan department store dressing room. An analysis of the dress revealed the DNA of at least one unidentified male, which Carroll’s attorneys have attempted to compare with a sample of President Trump’s DNA.

The president’s attorneys countered that Trump was immune from any state court lawsuit while in office and was, therefore, immune to Carroll’s “numerous and burdensome discovery requests,” such as the requested DNA swab.

Roberta Kaplan, a partner at Kaplan Hecker & Fink, said Friday that the Supreme Court has defenestrated this argument.

“The United States Supreme Court reminded us yesterday of two crucial principles that guide this nation. First, ‘in our system of government no one is above the law.’ Second, this principle applies to President Trump just like it does to everyone else. Despite years of delay caused by Trump’s lawyers arguing to the contrary, it is now clear that Donald Trump has no special right to defame women who have accused him of sexual misconduct and then avoid the consequences of his actions because he is President,” Kaplan said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “E. Jean Carroll should be permitted to resume discovery in her case as soon as possible so that a jury can decide who is telling the truth – E. Jean or Donald Trump.”

Read the letter below:

E. Jean Carroll letter by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.