In a recent ruling, a federal judge found former President Donald Trump to be civilly liable for defamatory statements made about writer E. Jean Carroll. The judge’s decision has significant implications for the upcoming trial, which will focus on determining the monetary damages Trump should pay Carroll. This article will examine the ruling and its potential impact on Trump’s legal troubles.
Normally, a jury would determine a defendant’s liability for civil damages. However, Judge Lewis Kaplan granted Carroll a partial summary judgment, concluding that Trump was liable for defaming her. This decision was influenced by a previous trial in which jurors found that Trump had sexually abused Carroll and defamed her in his denial of her allegations. Carroll’s lawyers argued, and the judge agreed, that this verdict settled the legal question of whether Trump had defamed her in his comments made in 2019.
This ruling marks yet another significant loss for Trump in the lawsuits filed by Carroll. In the previous trial, he was ordered to pay her $5 million in damages for his post-presidential comments. Despite his appeal of that verdict, Trump now faces another trial focused on his statements about Carroll while he was still in office. The timing of this trial, set to begin in January, coincides with the intensification of the Republican presidential nomination contest, in which Trump is currently the front-runner.
Carroll’s lawyer expressed anticipation for the forthcoming trial, limited to determining damages for the original defamatory statements. On the other hand, Trump’s lawyer expressed confidence in the appeal of the previous verdict, suggesting it would render the current ruling irrelevant. Habba, Trump’s lawyer, expects a federal appeals court to halt the upcoming trial while considering the meritorious defenses raised by the former president.
Trump is also appealing Judge Kaplan’s dismissal of his own defamation claim against Carroll. Trump argues that Carroll defamed him by restating her claim of rape, despite the jury’s finding that he sexually abused her but did not rape her. However, Judge Kaplan dismissed this argument, noting that the jury’s verdict aligned with the common understanding of rape, if not the technical definition under New York law.
Notably, in a previous development, the Department of Justice (DOJ) abandoned its long-standing effort to shield Trump from civil liability in connection to Carroll’s suit. The DOJ had previously argued that Trump’s statements were made within the scope of his presidential duties. However, the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., suggested that Trump could be personally sued if his statements did not serve the U.S. government’s purpose. Moreover, the DOJ highlighted that Trump’s allegedly defamatory remarks about Carroll continued after his departure from the White House, leading to an amended suit being filed against him.
The judge’s ruling in favor of Carroll sets a significant precedent, holding a former president responsible for his defamatory statements. It reinforces the principle that individuals, even those in positions of power, can be held accountable for their words. This ruling adds to the legal challenges Trump currently faces and potentially sets the tone for future defamation cases involving public figures.
The ruling against Trump’s civil liability in the defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll represents a blow to the former president’s legal stance. It demonstrates that he can be held responsible for defamatory statements made while in office and underscores the importance of accountability for public figures. As the trial for monetary damages approaches, the outcome will have significant implications for both Trump and the broader landscape of defamation law.