Appeals court to quickly consider Trump’s immunity claim in sex abuse case

September 14, 2023

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said Wednesday it would quickly consider Trump’s immunity claim related to writer E. Jean Carroll’s successful defamation and sexual abuse lawsuit against the former President.

The court issued an order to expedite Trump’s appeal after his attorney, Alina Habba, told a three-judge panel that their case raised “an important question that will affect the delicate balance between the judiciary and the executive branch for many years to come.”

The 2nd Circuit is expected to set a deadline for written arguments in the appeal to be filed within a month.

In May, a New York a jury awarded Carroll $5 million, finding Trump was liable for sexual abuse and defamation after she testified in court that Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in Manhattan in the mid-1990s and then defamed her in 2019—while Trump was President—following the publication of her memoir, causing her lasting harm.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has set a January 15 follow-up trial date after Carroll filed a second defamation suit. On May 10—the day after the jury ruled against him—Trump did not back down from his earlier accusations against Carroll during a CNN town hall, calling the former Elle magazine columnist a “wack job” and saying her civil trial was “rigged.”

Last month Kaplan tossed a counter-defamation suit brought by Trump against Carroll, writing in his opinion that the jury’s verdict “establishes, as against Mr Trump, the fact that Mr Trump ‘raped her’,” in contradiction to Trump’s claim that Carroll’s public description of the incident in question as “rape” was defamatory following the jury’s “sexual abuse” decision.

Carroll Attorney Joshua Matz on Tuesday urged the 2nd Circuit to expedite hearing Trump’s appeal, saying it would be difficult to reschedule the follow-up defamation trial—in which Carroll is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages—if the January 15 date were lost, since Trump faces four separate criminal indictments while at the same time he’s running for reelection in the 2024 Presidential race. 

In its two-page order Wednesday, the three-judge panel denied an application by Trump to stay the lower-court proceedings during the appeal, but noted that it was in the interest of all sides to resolve the issue of presidential immunity quickly. 

Since Carroll’s follow-up defamation suit includes comments the former President made earlier this year, 2nd Circuit Judge Reena Raggi asked why Trump’s team believes it has a basis for raising presidential immunity now.

Habba responded that the comments Trump made this year were “rooted in his 2019 conduct.”

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