By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former contestant on Donald Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice” may pursue her defamation lawsuit against the U.S. president, a New York state judge ruled on Tuesday, despite Trump’s effort to have an appeals court put it on hold.
The contestant, Summer Zervos, has claimed that Trump sexually harassed her and defamed her when he denied her allegations. Trump has argued that as a sitting president he is immune from the lawsuit and is seeking an order from New York’s highest court freezing the case.
At a hearing in Manhattan on Tuesday, Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, argued that Zervos’ lawsuit should not go forward until the New York Court of Appeals, and if necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court, decides the issue.
“It’s merely seeking a determination at the highest level of competent jurisdiction as to the resolution of this very important constitutional issue,” Kasowitz told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter.
Zervos accused Trump of subjecting her to unwanted kissing and groping after she sought career advice in 2007.
She came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump called her allegations lies. He also retweeted a post calling Zervos’ claims a “hoax.”
Zervos is one of more than a dozen women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct. The White House has said the women are lying.
Kasowitz said at Tuesday’s hearing that he may seek to bar any other women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct from testifying in the case, though he did not make a formal motion.
Zervos’ lawyer, Mariann Wang, said multiple judges had already rebuffed Trump’s argument and the case should be allowed to go ahead.
“We understand it should be orderly. We want to cooperate with defendant in good faith to figure out when and how to proceed,” she said.
Kasowitz and Wang both declined to comment after the hearing.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)