Skip to main content

‘Without Merit’: Judge Rejects Trump’s Demands to Dismiss E. Jean Carroll’s Lawsuit Accusing Him of Rape

E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump

E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump cannot dismiss E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit accusing him of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

Senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan had ruled against Trump before on Carroll’s separate lawsuit accusing the former president of defamation, for denying her rape allegations by telling reporters: “She’s not my type.”

“A Culture of Silence”

Friday’s ruling relates to Trump’s attempt to dismiss Carroll’s second lawsuit under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims that would otherwise be time-barred.

Trump claimed the law was unconstitutional, but Kaplan said that position was “without merit.”

“The fact that adult victims of sexual abuse are legally and in some respects practically capable of instituting civil litigation against their abusers from the moment the abuse occurs thus is constitutionally immaterial,” Kaplan’s 28-page ruling states. “The elected branches of the New York State government have determined that many such victims are unable to do so, sometimes for long periods of time. They are prevented by suppression of awful memories or deterred by fear and a ‘culture of silence’ – just as Ms. Carroll claims she was dissuaded from reporting or suing Mr. Trump.”

Several states have adopted laws using similar reasoning, which allow for “look-back” periods to revisit sexual abuse claims that sometimes span back for decades.

Before the passage of New York’s Adult Survivors Act, the Empire State had the Child Victims Act, which fulfilled a similar function in cases involving minors. That was the law that noted Jeffrey Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre deployed in her lawsuit against Prince Andrew, who she claimed sexually abused her when she was 17 years old. Prince Andrew argued that the statute was inapplicable because Giuffre had reached the age of consent at the time, and he also attacked the constitutionality of the law in the same manner that Trump did. Prince Andrew’s lawsuit resulted in an out-of-court settlement — reportedly for $16 million.

Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre

Prince Andrew stands with his arm around Virginia Giuffre’s waist, with Ghislaine Maxwell standing in the background. Giuffre included this photograph in her lawsuit against the British royal. (Screenshot from Giuffre’s lawsuit)

“A Reasonable Measure to Address an Injustice”

Carroll’s attorney noted that the same judge presided over the prince and Trump’s cases: Judge Kaplan.

Kaplan himself cited the same case, in a footnote of his opinion.

“[T]he New York Court of Appeals recently made clear that the test for whether a claim-revival statute is consistent with the New York Due Process Clause is simply whether the revival statute is ‘a reasonable measure to address an injustice.’” Kaplan’s ruling states. “The answer is obvious.”

Trump’s attorney Alina Habba signaled plans to take the matter to the Second Circuit.

“While we are disappointed with the court’s decision, we intend to immediately appeal the order and continue to advocate for our client’s constitutionally protected rights,” Habba said in a statement.

The former president also appealed a similar order in Carroll’s defamation suit, securing a partial victory on appeal.

A three-judge panel from the Second Circuit in that case found that Trump qualified as a government “employee,” meeting one of the bars under the Westfall Act for claiming immunity from the defamation suit. The appeals court then asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to determine whether Trump made his allegedly defamatory comments in his official capacity as president. The court’s answer to that question, which remains pending, will determine the survival of that lawsuit.

Either way, Carroll’s second lawsuit is likely to survive. She also filed other defamation claims for similar comments Trump made after his presidency, for which he could not claim immunity.

Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, said that she anticipated and welcomed the outcome.

“We are pleased though not surprised that Judge Kaplan denied Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss and upheld the constitutionality of New York’s Adult Survivors Act,” she told Law&Crime.

A trial is currently scheduled later this year in April.

Read the ruling, below:

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."