Donald Trump cannot amend his answer to rape accuser E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit in order to countersue her, a federal judge ruled in an opinion slamming the former president for his “frivolous” delay tactics.
“In the Court’s view, characterization of defendant’s previous and threatened future actions as dilatory, in bad faith or unduly prejudicial would be a bootless exercise. They are, in varying degrees, all three,” Senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in a 23-page ruling.
Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan celebrated the ruling.
“My client E. Jean Carroll and I could not agree more,” she wrote in a statement.
On Nov. 4, 2019, Carroll sued Trump in state court for defamation, alleging that the then-president defamed her by falsely denying that he raped her in the dressing room of the department store Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s.
Some three years later, those proceedings remain stalled in the beginning stages, including on what to even name the lawsuit. Trump claimed official immunity and wanted the Department of Justice to intervene on his behalf, rendering the case Carroll v. United States and not Carroll v. Trump.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department did intervene, asserting that Trump was acting in his presidential capacity when he answered the accusation of sexual assault by telling reporters: “She’s not my type.”
After Judge Kaplan rejected that maneuver, Trump appealed—in a matter that remains unresolved. President Joe Biden’s Justice Department surprised many by taking Trump’s side on this fight, insisting that the precedent was necessary to shield future presidents from litigation while in office.
The judge said that there were other delay tactics.
“In the days following, defendant, then the president of the United States, attempted to evade service of the complaint at his New York City residence and the White House,” Kaplan wrote. “Service was completed only by mail after the state court granted plaintiff’s application for alternative service. Defendant then attempted to delay the progress of the lawsuit through frivolous motions practice.”
This formed part of a pattern, Kaplan said.
“Taken together, these actions demonstrate that defendant’s litigation tactics have had a dilatory effect and, indeed, strongly suggest that he is acting out of a strong desire to delay any opportunity plaintiff may have to present her case against him,” he wrote.
Kaplan wrote that the matter could have been resolved long ago.
“Plaintiff’s only claim in this case is a single count of defamation,” he wrote. “It could have been tried and decided one way or the other long ago,” it continues. “The record convinces this Court that the defendant’s litigation tactics, whatever their intent, have delayed the case to an extent that readily could have been far less. Granting leave to amend without considering the futility of the proposed amendment needlessly would make a regrettable situation worse by opening new avenues for significant further delay. That would unduly prejudice plaintiff which, in my view, is a motive for defendant’s position on this motion.”
Now represented by Alina Habba, Trump wanted to countersue Carroll under New York’s anti-SLAPP law, a statute meant to discourage lawsuits retaliating for free speech. That statute became effective in November 2020, but Trump’s attorney waited until Jan. 11 of this year to ask permission to countersue under it.
In an email, Habba told Law&Crime that she looks forward to defending her client.
“While we are disappointed with the Court’s decision today, we eagerly look forward to litigating this action and proving at trial that the plaintiff’s claims have absolutely no basis in law or in fact,” she wrote.
This is a developing story.
Read the ruling below:
[Images via Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Glamour, MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images]
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