Exactly one week before Donald Trump’s deposition, a federal judge refused the former president’s request to pause E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit accusing him of falsely denying that he raped her.
The ruling clears the course for Carroll’s lawyers to depose Trump on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
Trump’s lawyers will question Carroll on Friday.
“Completing those depositions — which already have been delayed for years — would impose no undue burden on Mr. Trump, let alone any irreparable injury,” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in a 16-page opinion.
As he has in the past, Kaplan excoriated Trump’s attorneys for what the judge characterized as a pattern of stalling.
“As this Court previously has observed, Mr. Trump has litigated this case since it began in 2019 with the effect and probably the purpose of delaying it,” Kaplan wrote toward the start of the opinion.
Trump was still president when Carroll first publicly accused him of raping her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. The current lawsuit relates to Trump’s denials of those allegations. In one interview with The Hill, Trump told reporters: “She’s not my type.”
Though Carroll filed her complaint three years ago in state court, the lawsuit was transferred to federal court after the Department of Justice argued that Trump was immune from liability for statements he made to reporters as president. Kaplan rejected that argument, but the Justice Department — both under the leadership of Attorneys General Bill Barr and Merrick Garland — continued to maintain that position on appeal.
The Second Circuit recently handed Trump a partial victory on that issue, finding that the former president qualified as a government “employee” under the Westfall Act. The divided panel then certified a question to the D.C. Court of Appeals to determine whether Trump’s statements about conduct before his presidency counted as official actions under local law.
Since that time, Trump renewed his motion to substitute the United States for him as a defendant. Kaplan flatly rejected the request again, saying he wouldn’t give the former president a “second bite at that apple.”
Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan announced that she intends to file a separate lawsuit on Nov. 24, 2022, the date that New York’s Adult Survivors Act goes into effect. The removes what would have been the bar for Carroll to pursue her rape allegations themselves in civil litigation.
“The question whether Mr. Trump in fact raped Ms. Carroll is central to this case,” the opinion states. “But it will be central also to the new case that almost certainly will be filed on November 24, 2022 or soon thereafter. Accordingly, discovery and evidence relating to whether or not the alleged rape occurred is relevant to both cases. Mr. Trump has pointed to no discovery or other proceedings that would occur in this case absent a stay that would not be relevant also to the imminent new case.”
Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner called the ruling a “big win” for Carroll in that it keeps discovery alive before the new lawsuit is filed.
Calling the imminent case “a much better claim with much clearer damages than a claim for defamation,” Epner predicted that Carroll’s attorneys may pursue the latter lawsuit more vigorously than the original one.
“In fact, I would not be surprised if once the once the new complaint is filed, she stopped litigating the question of defamation,” said Epner, who’s now a partner with the firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC.
As he has in the past, Kaplan tore into the litigation and tactics of Trump’s attorney Alina Habba, who referred to the arguments of Carroll’s legal team as “asinine.” The judge quoted that remark before scolding Habba in a footnote: “The Court will not tolerate by counsel such inappropriate language again.”
A longtime senior U.S. District Judge, Kaplan is known for his sometimes caustic cut-downs of lawyers in his courtroom. Those familiar with his courtroom say the judge has little tolerance for attorneys who act in ways he perceives as inappropriate or disrespectful.
“In Judge Kaplan’s world, the only person who can denigrate one side’s argument is Judge Kaplan,” Epner said. “For opposing counsel to do it is a very, very bad idea.”
Trump’s lawyer released a brief statement anticipating the case’s adjudication.
“We look forward to establishing on the record that this case is, and always has been, entirely without merit,” Habba wrote.
Carroll’s lawyer, who shares a name with the judge but isn’t related to him, praised the ruling.
“We are pleased that Judge Kaplan agreed with our position not to stay discovery in this case,” Kaplan wrote. “We look forward to filing our case under the Adult Survivors Act and moving forward to trial with all dispatch.”
Trial has been slated for Feb. 6, 2023.
Read the opinion here.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]