A judge ruled Tuesday that President Donald Trump can be deposed in a defamation lawsuit brought last year by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who says Trump kissed and groped her after she appeared on the show.
Zervos is one of more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of unwanted sexual contact. The president has vehemently denied all of the women’s claims, which he called “100 percent fabricated,” and he retweeted a tweet describing Zervos’s claim as a “hoax.” Zervos filed a defamation claim against Trump in January 2017 over those denials.
Lawyers for both sides must issue their demands for documents as part of discovery by July 13, and those responses must be provided by Sept. 27, Judge Jennifer Schechter ordered Tuesday. Both parties are ordered to submit third party subpoenas by March 23, 2019.
Schechter ordered both parties to submit to depositions too, with a deadline of Jan. 31, 2019. All depositions of people who are “non-parties” to the case must be conducted by Feb. 28. She ordered fact discovery to be completed by April 12.
Trump could still avoid a deposition, though. His lawyers have appealed to New York’s highest court in hopes of avoiding it. His legal team has argued that Zervos’ lawsuit is politically motivated.
Schechter ruled earlier this year that the defamation case could proceed, despite Trump’s attorneys’ argument that a sitting president cannot be sued in state court. “No one is above the law,” Schechter wrote in her March 20 ruling.
The president’s attorneys appealed that ruling and last month unsuccessfully sought to delay the proceedings.
Trump’s lawyers have taken the second appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, where they are awaiting a response.
Lawyers for both parties are likely to seek to shield any information obtained through discovery from the public, at least in part. Both legal teams intend to work together to draft a protective order to keep some of the information yielded in discovery confidential.
Mariann Wang, an attorney for Zervos, said she has already sought to interview other women who have accused the president of unwanted sexual contact.