A federal judge on Friday denied Donald Trump’s request to countersue magazine writer E. Jean Carroll for violating New York’s law against frivolous defamation lawsuits, criticizing the former President’s legal argument as “futile” and a delay tactic.
Trump had asked the judge for permission to use the state’s anti-SLAPP law as a defense to the defamation claims and to countersue Carroll and seek attorneys’ fees, if successful.
In a 25-page opinion, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied Trump’s motion, calling it “futile.” He agreed with Carroll’s argument that Trump’s effort was “at least in part for a dilatory purpose and thus at least in part in bad faith.”
“Plaintiff’s only claim in this case is a single count of defamation. It could have been tried and decided – one way or the other – long ago,” the judge wrote. “The record convinces this Court that the defendant’s litigation tactics, whatever their intent, have delayed the case to an extent that readily could have been far less.”
Judge Kaplan added that if he granted Trump’s motion, which he said was legally deficient, it “would make a regrettable situation worse by opening new avenues for significant further delay.” The judge noted that Carroll is 78 years old.
Her lawyer Roberta A. Kaplan, citing the judge’s language about Trump’s moves being in bad faith and delaying the case, said in a statement: “My client E. Jean Carroll and I could not agree more.”
Trump’s attorney Alina Habba said, “While we are disappointed with the Court’s decision today, we eagerly look forward to litigating this action and proving at trial that the plaintiff’s claims have absolutely no basis in law or in fact.”
The defamation case is still on hold while the parties wait for a decision from an appeals court on whether the lawsuit can proceed.
Carroll sued Trump for defamation in 2019 in state court after he denied her claim that he raped her in a New York department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, said she wasn’t his type, and accused her of fabricating the claim to boost sales of her book.
Trump and the Justice Department moved the case to federal court and argued Trump was a federal employee and his statements denying Carroll’s allegations were made in response to reporters’ questions while he was at the White House. They argued the Justice Department should be substituted as the defendant, which, because the government cannot be sued for defamation, would end the lawsuit.
Judge Kaplan denied Trump’s motion and allowed the lawsuit to proceed. Trump and the Justice Department appealed. The appeals court has not ruled on the case.
This story has been updated with additional details.