NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court will quickly consider former President Donald Trump’s claim that presidential immunity protects him from being held liable for statements he made in 2019 when he denied that he sexually attacked a New York writer in the 1990s, the court said Wednesday.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued an order to say it will expedite the appeal a day after Trump attorney Alina Habba told a three-judge panel of the court that the appeal 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 set a schedule for written arguments to be filed within a month.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has set a Jan. 15 date for a jury to decide damages in a long-delayed lawsuit brought by the writer, E. Jean Carroll. She claimed Trump defamed her in 2019 when he said she fabricated claims in a memoir in which she said Trump sexually attacked her in a luxury Manhattan department store in 1996.
In May, a jury rejected Carroll's claim that Trump raped her in the department store's dressing room, but it concluded that he sexually abused her. It awarded $5 million for sexual assault and for defamatory remarks that it concluded Trump made last fall. Trump had vehemently denied ever sexually attacking Carroll or encountering her at a store.
Last week, Kaplan ruled that the defamation lawsuit scheduled for trial in January can focus only on damages because Trump’s 2019 statements were substantially the same as statements he later made that a jury has already concluded were false and defamatory.
Carroll is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and substantially more, though unspecified, in punitive damages.
Attorney Joshua Matz, arguing for Carroll before the 2nd Circuit on Tuesday, urged an expediting hearing of the appeal, saying it would be difficult to reschedule the damages phase of the defamation trial next year if it lost the Jan. 15 trial date, since Trump faces four criminal indictments as he campaigns to be the Republican nominee for president next year.
In its two-page order Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit denied an application by Trump to stay lower-court proceedings during the appeal, but it said it was in the interest of all sides for the appeals court to resolve the issue of presidential immunity expeditiously.
During Tuesday's oral arguments, Circuit Judge Reena Raggi noted that the defamation claim first brought against Trump four years ago has since been amended to include remarks Trump made this year.
“Where the claim pertains to post-office conduct for which he wouldn’t have immunity, why do you think you have the basis for raising it now?” she asked of the presidential immunity assertion.
Habba responded that the comments Trump made this year were “rooted in his 2019 conduct.”