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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Second Circuit strikes down Trump’s request for presidential immunity

"We hold that presidential immunity is waivable and that defendant waived this defense," Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes, a Bill Clinton appointee, wrote in the Second Circuit opinion.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Donald Trump cannot use presidential immunity as a defense in a defamation lawsuit by writer E. Jean Carroll, the Second Circuit ruled Wednesday.

In her second lawsuit against the former president, Carroll requested $10 million dollars over Trump’s denials he raped her in early 1996 in a fitting room at New York City’s famed Bergdorf Goodman department store after he asked her to help him pick out a gift for a woman.  

In an opinion written by Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes, a Bill Clinton appointee, the court found Trump cannot raise presidential immunity as a defense because he failed to do so at the outset of Carroll’s complaint.

“We hold that presidential immunity is waivable and that defendant waived this defense,” Cabranes wrote in his opinion.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, a Bill Clinton appointee, denied Trump’s motion for summary judgement in federal court and rejected his request to add presidential immunity as a defense.

“The district court did not err in its order denying defendant’s motion for summary judgment," Cabranes wrote, "nor did it err, much less ‘abuse its discretion,’ in denying his belated request for leave to amend his answer to add presidential immunity as a defense."

The court also remanded the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for further proceedings consistent with the Second Circuit’s opinion.

Judge Kaplan has scheduled a trial to determine damages to begin on January 15, 2024, the same day as the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses are set to kick off primary elections in the 2024 presidential race.

In oral arguments in October, Trump’s attorneys cited Nixon v. Fitzgerald, which established immunity from civil liability for a president’s official conduct. In arguments, they said a president is immune in actions for civil damages for acts within the “outer perimeter” of his official duties.

But Cabranes pushed back against Trump’s arguments in his opinion.

“All in all, defendant provides no case that turns on whether presidential immunity is jurisdictional, much less one holding that it is jurisdiction and Nixon — described by defendant’s counsel at oral argument as the ‘main case’ and ‘the only binding precedent’ on presidential immunity — points in the opposite direction,” Cabranes said.

Cabranes was joined by U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, a Barack Obama appointee, and U.S. Circuit Judge Maria Araújo Kahn, a Joe Biden appointee.

Carroll’s civil defamation suit arises from then-president Trump’s 2019 denial of her account, which she detailed in her book “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal” and an excerpt published in New York Magazine. In June 2019, Trump denied her account of the incident and said she was making up the story.

“I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened,” Trump told reporters that year, referencing Carroll’s account.

In the first of Carroll’s two civil cases that went to trial, a New York jury found Trump liable this past May on counts of sexual battery and defamation and ordered the former president to pay $5 million in damages.

“We are pleased that the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Kaplan’s rulings and that we can now move forward with trial next month,” Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s attorney, said in a statement.

Trump’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Follow @NikaSchoonover
Categories / Appeals, Politics

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