A federal judge reminded the Department of Justice that it could not defend Trump in a personal defamation lawsuit.
A federal judge on Wednesday once again told Donald Trump that the Department of Justice cannot serve as his personal defense lawyers in a defamation case filed by a woman who accused Trump of rape.
Journalist E. Jean Carroll, who had accused Trump of raping her in a book published in 2019, filed a defamation lawsuit against him after he denied having met her and accused her of lying.
In September, the Department of Justice announced it was intervening in the lawsuit, claiming Trump was acting in his capacity as president when he denied he raped Carroll and that therefore it was correct for the department to act in his defense.
In October, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied the DOJ's request to serve as Trump's lawyers in the case, which essentially would have left taxpayers footing the bill and acknowledged Trump's denials of the rape charge as actions carried out as part of his official duties.
"The President of the United States is not an employee of the Government within the meaning of the relevant statutes," Kaplan wrote in his decision. "Even if he were such an employee, President Trump's allegedly defamatory statements concerning Ms. Carroll would not have been within the scope of his employment. Accordingly, the motion to substitute the United States in place of President Trump is denied."
But the docket sheet was never updated to reflect the ruling, leading to Kaplan once again reminding the government lawyers that they are not Trump's lawyers in the matter.
"The docket sheet erroneously lists Mr. [Stephen] Terrell and another attorney as counsel for defendant Trump," Kaplan wrote in the opinion, dated Nov. 18. "That is incorrect. They represent only the United States."
Trump has been working to delay Carroll's defamation lawsuit for months. But his efforts were blocked in August by a New York Supreme Court judge, who ruled that Carroll could both depose Trump and seek to obtain his DNA.
That's when the Department of Justice announced it was taking over the defense in the case.
The announcement appeared to be an effort by Trump to get the case dismissed altogether, legal experts said, because the federal government cannot be sued for defamation. The move was rejected by the court.
"DOJ is allowed—indeed, it is *required*—to take over tort suits against federal officials for torts committed within the scope of their employment. But how is claiming that Carroll lied about a decades-old rape allegation within the scope of Trump’s employment *as President*?!?" tweeted Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School.
Carroll is one of dozens of women who have accused Trump of sexual assault or rape.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.