Trump's request for pause in upcoming Carroll defamation trial in New York rejected by 2nd Circuit appeals panel

 December 29, 2023

Former President Donald Trump is awaiting a final ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court, and likely also the U.S. Supreme Court, on the legitimacy of his claims of presidential immunity as a protection against prosecution in his federal 2020 election-related criminal trial.

In light of that immunity question, Trump asked the 2nd Circuit Court to issue a 90-day stay on an impending civil defamation trial brought by columnist E. Jean Carroll that is slated to begin next month, but that request was just denied, according to The Hill.

That appeals court, which had just ruled against Trump's immunity claim only two weeks earlier, did not provide any reasoning for its decision to reject the requested 90-day pause while other courts address the matter.

Trump set to stand trial again in Carroll defamation suit

The Hill reported that former President Trump is set to stand trial once again in New York City on Jan. 16 as part of the second civil defamation suit brought against him by Carroll, who in 2019 accused Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s and further claimed he defamed her with his disparaging denials of her unproven accusations.

Trump had already been found liable in May in the first suit brought by Carroll for sexual assault, battery, and defamation -- but not rape -- and was ordered to pay her $5 million in damages.

The federal judge presiding over both suits, Judge Lewis Kaplan, has also already prejudged Trump as liable in the second suit and scheduled the January trial for the sole purpose of determining further damages that Trump will owe to Carroll.

Trump's request for a pause in proceedings denied

On Dec. 21, Trump's attorneys filed a motion that asked the 2nd Circuit Court for a 90-day stay to allow time both for him to appeal the prior rejection of his immunity claim as well as to pause the district court proceedings in the Carroll case that will begin trial in just a few weeks.

"The requested stays are necessary and appropriate to give President Trump an opportunity to fully litigate his entitlement to present an immunity defense in the underlying proceedings, including pursuing the appeal in the Supreme Court if necessary," the attorneys wrote. "The denial of this right would upend the longstanding rule that lower courts are divested of jurisdiction for the pendency of an immunity-related appeal."

"Forcing President Trump to stand trial absent a final determination as to whether his presidential immunity defense is viable would be the 'quintessential form of prejudice' and would deprive the immunity of its intended effect," the motion continued.

However, in a single-page order issued Thursday, the three-judge appeals panel denied Trump's request for a 90-day stay on its "mandate" and pause on the district court proceedings, and also denied a motion from Carroll that sought to speed up the process.

Trump's immunity claims at issue

According to Courthouse News, Clinton-appointee Judge Kaplan had previously rejected motions from former President Trump that sought summary judgment in his favor as well as the assertion of presidential immunity as protection against Carroll's defamation suit that was first brought while he was still in office.

That ruling had been appealed to the 2nd Circuit but it ruled earlier this month against Trump by asserting that he had waived any claim to such immunity by waiting too long to invoke it.

The outlet noted that Trump has asserted presidential immunity in his other impending federal and state-level criminal trials, including the federal 2020 election-related case in Washington D.C., and it is his claim in that particular case that is now before the D.C. Circuit, if not eventually also the Supreme Court.

Some legal analysts have surmised that Trump's immunity claims are little more than a delay tactic that he knows will ultimately fail while others have suggested it is a legitimate assertion that must be definitively settled. Regardless, it has already had the effect of stalling proceedings in the D.C. federal case, though not in the Carroll civil case in New York.

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