On Wednesday, a hearing for a case that relies on the allegations that Donald Trump raped a writer more than two decades ago has ended after a government lawyer was barred from the courthouse due to New York’s coronavirus rules.
Lawyers for the DOJ planned to make arguments in person before Judge Lewis Kaplan to support their position that the DOJ should be allowed to intervene in the E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against Trump.
One of the lawyers was denied entry into the lower Manhattan courthouse earlier because he traveled from his home in Virginia. Because of covid-19 precautions, Virginia is among the states whose residents must quarantine for 14 days if they travel to New York.
DOJ lawyer William Lane told Judge Lewis Kaplan that they would rest on its current written court filings in the case, instead of making arguments over the phone, or having a fellow prosecutor do so in person.
The case involves Caroll’s claims that Trump defamed her after he said she was lying about being raped by him in a Manhattan department store in the 90s.
Last month, the DOJ said it wanted its case transferred to federal court and wanted to substitute the U.S. government as the defendant in the case, replacing Trump.
The DOJ has said that it had certified that Trump “was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose.”
The DOJ argues that Trump acted as president when he denied Caroll’s allegations and said she was going after him for the money.
Carroll’s lawyers are refusing the DOJ’s request to substitute Trump as a defendant.
In a hearing shortly after the written filing, Lane’s fellow DOJ lawyer Stephen Terrell asked Kaplan for a postponement of the hearing due to one of the DOJ lawyers being prohibited from the courthouse because of the coronavirus restrictions.
The judged denied the request and only gave the DOJ three options for the hearing: Have Lane argue via telephone, have another lawyer make the arguments in person, or drop the planned hearing and rest their case on already submitted court filings.
Lane told Kaplan the DOJ was picking the third option.
Caroll’s Lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said she was disappointed by the DOJ’s decision not to argue its position, given the fact that Carroll had traveled some distance to attend.
Attorney General William Barr said that the White House asked the DOJ to intervene in the lawsuit.
He also said that Trump would not be responsible for any monetary damages awarded to Caroll, but the U.S. taxpayers will be.
Carroll’s lawyer Kaplan blasted the DOJ in a statement: “Today, the Court was scheduled to hear argument in a case against Donald Trump for slandering E. Jean Carroll after she revealed that he sexually assaulted her before taking office. The Justice Department has attempted to block this case at taxpayer expense by arguing that Trump was acting within the scope of his employment as President when he repeatedly defamed Carroll.”
She added, “But when given an opportunity by Judge Kaplan to present oral argument, DOJ declined to do so —even after the judge told them that this would result in the waiver of their newly raised arguments (which is to say, most of their case). This is unquestionably a new low for DOJ, which should at least appear in open court to answer for the outrageous positions that it has taken here. We remain confident that the Court will deny the Justice Department’s motion, and we look forward to pursuing Ms. Carroll’s case in federal court.”
Carroll sued Trump last November for defamation in a New York state court in Manhattan.
Caroll said, “Decades ago, the now President of the United States raped me. When I had the courage to speak out about the attack, he defamed my character, accused me of lying for personal gain, even insulted my appearance. No woman should have to face this.” She added, “But this lawsuit is not only about me,” she said. “I am filing this on behalf of every woman who has ever been harassed, assaulted, silenced, or spoken up only to be shamed, fired, ridiculed and belittled.”