The Manhattan federal court hearing for a journalist who has accused Donald Trump of raping her in the 1990s was cancelled abruptly after a government attorney was unable to enter the courthouse due to New York’s strict Covid-19 rules.
Lawyers for the Department of Justice (DOJ) arrived at the federal courthouse on Wednesday to argue before Judge Lewis Kaplan as to why the government agency should be allowed to intervene in the defamation case against the president.
But one of those lawyers was denied entry to the courthouse because he had travelled from his home in Virginia, a state that’s on New York’s 14-day mandatory quarantine list.
The case involves an allegation columnist E Jean Carroll made that Mr Trump allegedly sexually assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City decades ago.
Mr Trump has denied the allegation, which resulted in Ms Carroll suing the president for defamation.
After the lawyer was blocked from entering, the DOJ submitted a motion for a continuance of the hearing .
But Judge Kaplan denied the motion and gave the team one of three options: they could either present their oral argument to the judge via phone, send another prosecutor, or rest their case on written court filings already submitted,
DOJ lawyer William Lane told the judge the agency would rest on the team’s written court filings.
The DOJ has argued it should be allowed to substitute the US government as the defendant of the case instead of Mr Trump because the president was “acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose,” which means he was acting as president when he denied the allegations.
Ms Carroll’s lawyers are fighting against the move.
Her team expressed disappointment in the cancellation of the hearing, as Ms Carroll was already in the courtroom when the decision was made.
“Today, the Court was scheduled to hear argument in a case against Donald Trump for slandering E Jean Carroll after she revealed that he sexually assaulted her before taking office. The Justice Department has attempted to block this case at taxpayer expense by arguing that Trump was acting within the scope of his employment as President when he repeatedly defamed Carroll,” lawyer Roberta Kaplan said in a statement.
“But when given an opportunity by Judge Kaplan to present oral argument, DOJ declined to do so — even after the judge told them that this would result in the waiver of their newly raised arguments (which is to say, most of their case). This is unquestionably a new low for DOJ, which should at least appear in open court to answer for the outrageous positions that it has taken here. We remain confident that the Court will deny the Justice Department’s motion and we look forward to pursuing Ms Carroll’s case in federal court.”
Judge Kaplan will now make his determination in the case based on the written motions filed by both parties.