NEW YORK – A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a request by lawyers for former President Donald Trump to delay the progression of a defamation lawsuit by a woman who accused him of rape.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in Manhattan issued a brief denial of the request the lawyers made in December to delay the lawsuit while an appeals court decides whether the United States can be substituted as the defendant. It was unclear whether he would explain his reasoning in a subsequent filing.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is slated to hear arguments in November on whether Trump can be replaced as the defendant in the lawsuit brought by columnist E. Jean Carroll.
The U.S. Justice Department has asserted that Trump cannot be held personally liable for “crude and disrespectful” remarks he made about Carroll because he was president at the time.
Carroll says Trump raped her in the mid-1990s in an upscale Manhattan department store.
Her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said in an email, “We very much look forward to oral argument in E Jean’s case before the Second Circuit. ... In the meantime, we are reviewing today’s order.”
Lawyers for Trump and the Justice Department did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The Associated Press generally does not identify people alleging sexual assault, but Carroll has consented to being named in the media.
Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr began the effort to replace Trump as the defendant while Trump was still in office.
Barr’s intervention last October was criticized on the campaign trail by Trump's Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, who said it was inappropriate for the Justice Department to attempt to intervene in a private legal battle over Trump’s personal conduct.
In June, the Justice Department under Biden, who won the election, stuck to the position it took while Barr led the department.
It said Trump was acting “within the scope of his office” in denying wrongdoing after White House reporters asked him about Carroll’s claims.
“Elected public officials can — and often must — address allegations regarding personal wrongdoing that inspire doubt about their suitability for office,” the Justice Department said.
“Even reprehensible conduct ... can fall within the scope of employment,” the lawyers wrote, conceding that Trump used “crude and disrespectful” language in questioning Carroll’s credibility.
Kaplan ruled last October that Trump cannot use a law protecting federal employees from being sued individually for things they do within the scope of their employment.