A new law in New York State, the "Adult Survivors Act," gives victims of sexual assault a 1-year window in which to sue the perpetrator, no matter how long ago the alleged incident took place. A few minutes after midnight last Friday morning, when the law kicked in, the lawyers for E. Jean Carroll, who claims Donald Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s, started the process of suing him. This just puts one more legal issue on his plate. Keeping track of all the civil and criminal cases and micromanaging all his lawyers (and replacing the ones who quit when he doesn't pay them on time) is certainly going to take some time away from his campaigning.
Carroll is suing him both for battery (related to the original crime) and defamation (because he called her a liar when she went public about the incident). She is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for pain and suffering, psychological harm, and invasion of her privacy. The lawsuit was expected. As soon as Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY signed the law, Carroll announced that she would be one of the first people to use it.
Carroll's lawyer is Roberta Kaplan, who is best known for successfully arguing United States v. Windsor before the Supreme Court. The defendant, Edith Windsor, was married to Thea Spyer in Canada, where same-sex marriage was legal. New York State, where the couple lived, recognized the marriage as valid. When Spyer died and named Windsor as the sole heir in her will, Windsor claimed the surviving spouse exemption from the federal estate tax. IRS claimed they weren't married. The Supreme Court disagreed and said they were, effectively striking down a key part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Kaplan's victory there was a landmark decision that forced the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. So Carroll has some pretty high-powered legal talent on her side.
Now what about Trump? Trump's lawyer is Alina Habba, a young woman who runs a small (five-person) law firm located near Trump's Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. She might have to take herself off the case eventually, because she herself is being investigated for a potential crime (perjury). Earlier this year she signed a document stating that she had personally searched Mar-a-Lago completely and that none of the secret documents Trump took from the White House were present. In August, the FBI executed a search warrant and found boxes of secret documents all over the building. Habba has also been sued by one of her employees for creating a hostile work environment.
The new case may be merged with an earlier suit Carroll brought against Trump for the same incident. Kaplan said that since the two cases cover the same incident, there is no need for a lengthy discovery process so the trial can begin soon. The judge will get to decide when to hold the trial. (V)