(NEW YORK) — A federal appeals court in New York on Friday returned E. Jean Carroll’s initial case against former President Donald Trump to a district court judge who had previously decided Trump did not act within the scope of his employment as president when he denied Carroll’s rape claim and allegedly defamed her.
Carroll, a former Elle columnist who alleges that Trump attacked her in the dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman luxury department store in the 1990s, claims Trump defamed her in 2019 when, during his presidency, he denied her rape claim by calling her a liar and saying “she’s not my type.”
Trump, who also denies the accusations, has argued that the Justice Department should be substituted as the defendant in the case because, at the time of his allegedly defamatory statements, he was acting in his official capacity as an employee of the federal government.
Friday’s decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remands the case to the district court for further consideration.
The decision follows an indeterminate opinion from the D.C. Court of Appeals, which last week declined to shield Trump from accountability but did not fully resolve the question of whether denying allegations of misconduct that occurred prior to his term fell within the scope of his employment as president of the United States.
If Trump is determined to have been acting as a government employee, the U.S. government would substitute as the defendant in Carroll’s defamation lawsuit — which means the case would go away, since the government cannot be sued for defamation.
The presiding district court judge, Lewis Kaplan, previously denied the government’s motion to substitute for Trump, ruling that the president is not an employee of the government and that Trump did not act within the scope of his employment when he allegedly defamed Carroll.
The case, which has been caught in a procedural back-and-forth since then-Attorney General William Barr sought to substitute the government for Trump as the defendant in 2000, is one of two lawsuits Carrol has brought against Trump in connection with his alleged defamatory remarks.
She filed a second lawsuit against him in November, related to the same rape accusation, that alleged additional instances of defamation and added a claim of battery under a New York law that allows adult victims to sue even if the alleged sexual assault occurred long ago.
That case is scheduled for trial in New York City next week. Carroll’s attorneys said they do not plan to call Trump as a witness but do plan to play excerpts of a deposition he sat for as part of the case.
Trump’s attorneys have said he has not decided whether to attend the trial, despite a Thursday deadline Judge Kaplan set for Trump to inform him of his plans.
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