Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, can proceed with her defamation lawsuit against President Trump, a NY appellate court ruled Thursday, rejecting the president's assertion he cannot be sued in state court.
"The current sitting President attempts to shield himself from consequences for his alleged unofficial misconduct by relying upon the constitutional protection of the Presidency", the judges said in an opinion written by Justice Dianne T. Renwick.
In statements to the media in 2016 and then in her January 2017-filed complaint, Zervos claimed Trump sexually assaulted her twice in 2007.
Trump also faced a defamation claim by adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit over a hush money agreement.
A lawyer for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump's legal team can seek to have the appellate court's ruling reviewed by the New York State Supreme Court in Albany.
Defendant's reading of the Supremacy Clause - that it bars a state court from exercising jurisdiction over him because he is the "ultimate repository of the Executive Branch's powers and is required by the Constitution to be "always in function" -- finds no support in the constitutional text or case law.
Despite this, Judge Renwick said that the Supremacy Clause is only meant to settle conflicts between state and federal laws, and there's no reason to believe that it says anything about a state court's ability to hear cases involving the president.
Zervos appeared on "The Apprentice" in 2006, when Trump was the reality show's host. She had been a contestant on The Apprentice the previous year. But he singled out Zervos' allegations, calling them a "hoax", and "fabricated and made-up charges".
She says she didn't go public with her allegations for nearly a decade because she admired Trump as a businessman and thought he had had just a couple of episodes of bad behavior with her.
Zervos is seeking a retraction, an apology, and compensatory and punitive damages. "We look forward to proving to a jury that Ms. Zervos told the truth about Defendant's unwanted sexual groping and holding him accountable for his malicious lies".
The second allegedly occurred soon thereafter when Zervos went to meet Trump for dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she said he kissed her "open-mouthed", "grabbed her shoulder, again kissing her very aggressively, and placed his hand on her breast". They face a June 28 deadline for any depositions - pretrial questioning under oath - of Trump and Zervos by each other's lawyers.