A Washington, DC, appeals court has set oral arguments for January 2023 in the defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, indicating that a decision over the outcome of ex-magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll’s claims won’t come until next year.
Last month, the DC appeals court was asked by a federal appeals court in New York to weigh in on a specific legal question that the future of the lawsuit hinges on.
In a brief order Tuesday, the DC appeals court said it will expedite the appeal and the entire bench of judges will consider the arguments, instead of the routine three-judge panel. The court scheduled oral arguments for January 10, less than a month before the case is set to go to trial in New York.
Carroll sued Trump for defamation when he denied her allegations that he raped her in a New York department store in the mid-1990s, said she wasn’t his “type,” and claimed she made up the assault to boost sales of her book. But the lawsuit has languished in the court system since it was first filed in 2019.
Earlier this month, Trump and Carroll both sat for depositions after US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the litigation, rejected Trump’s effort to put off the testimony while they waited for the DC appeals court to weigh in. Kaplan scheduled the trial for February 2023.
The current legal issue arose after Trump and the Justice Department argued that the Justice Department should be substituted as the defendant because 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. The federal government cannot be sued for defamation, so a ruling in their favor would end the lawsuit.
Kaplan ruled against Trump and DOJ. They appealed. Last month a federal appeals court in New York ruled that Trump was a federal employee when he denied Carroll’s claim of rape and sexual assault.
However, the New York appeals court asked the DC appeals court to determine if Trump was acting within the scope of his employment when he made the allegedly defamatory statements.
If the DC court finds in favor of Trump, then the Justice Department would likely be substituted as a defendant and the case dismissed.
Robbie Kaplan, Carroll’s attorney, said, “We are pleased that the DC Court of Appeals set an expedited schedule to determine the issue certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. As we’ve said several times by now, we are eager to get to trial on all of E. Jean’s claims as soon as possible.”
An attorney for Trump, Alina Habba, told CNN in a statement that they were also “pleased that this appeal will be heard on an expedited basis.”
“We look forward to arguing these important issues before the DC Court of Appeals,” Habba said.
This story has been updated with additional details.