Federal Court Denied Involvement of US Department of Justice in Trump’s Defamation Lawsuit

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Background 

The Plaintiff, E .Jean Carroll, published a book where she wrote that a businessman, Donald J Trump had raped her in a dressing room, in New York Department Store. Immediately after the publication, Mr Trump publically declared it to be a lie and the rape story to have been a made-up story. Ms Carroll sued Mr Trump for injuring her reputation and that these statements were defamatory, libellous, and slanderous even.

Donald J Trump was sued in his personal capacity and not his official capacity as President. The US Department of Justice or the government lawyers had not been involved in the proceedings for an entire year. This would entail that Mr Trump would be liable to pay the damages which Ms Carroll might be entitled to. 

Consecutively, papers were filed certifying that the Attorney General had determined that the statements made by Mr Trump were in his official capacity as President, and therefore the case will be moved to the Federal Courts. 

Acts Involved 

The Federal Tort Claims Act 

The FTCA authorized damages claims for negligence and certain other civil wrongs committed by government employees within the scope of their employment.

Westfall Act 

Under the Westfall Act, “the Attorney General shall defend any civil action or proceeding brought in any court against any employee of the Government or his estate for any [of the above described] damage or injury.”For the Westfall Act to apply, the Defendant must be an “employee of the Government” who was acting within the scope of his or her employment.

Issues Raised and Arguments Advanced 

There was a contention raised regarding the statements being made in the official capacity as President whereas the Plaintiff, Ms Carroll had sued Mr Trump in his personal capacity. 

An argument regarding sovereign immunity was raised by the State where Donald Trump would have to receive the immunity for having the office of the presidency. In addition to this, the United States of America cannot be sued for money damages except to the extent that it had explicitly agreed to be sued. This comes under the aspect of a sovereign nation. 

 The State argued that Mr Trump had not been sued in his private capacity but as the president. It had gone further to interpret the President as an “employee” of the United States of America as his actions were allegedly in the scope of his employment. 

In addition to this, Ms Carroll had sued Mr Trump for libel and slander, whereas the FTCA specifically excepts libel and slander cases from the United States’ consent to be sued. 

Court’s Decision 

The Federal Court held that the US Department of Justice cannot intervene in the lawsuit. The suit would be carried on with Mr Trump being the Defendant in his personal capacity. 

Click here to view the judgment.


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