March 31 (UPI) -- New York's highest court ruled that former President Donald Trump must face accusations of defaming a a contestant of his former reality show The Apprentice now that his argument a president has immunity was no longer valid.
The New York Court of Appeals made its ruling Tuesday in a case brought against Trump by Summer Zervos who sued the former president days before his inauguration in 2017 over his public response to her accusation he sexually assaulted her over a decade ago.
Zervos said in the initial lawsuit that Trump had kissed and fondled her on more than one occasion in 2007 but she went public with the accusations after an Access Hollywood tape was aired while he was campaigning showed her his behavior "was entirely consistent" with his own words "and with his belief that he had the right to sexually assault women."
In response, Trump used his national "bully pulpit to make false factual statements to denigrate and verbally attack" Zervos and other women who accused him of sexual assault, the lawsuit states.
Trump's legal defense argued that as president he had immunity from being sued in state court.
However, the New York Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday now that Trump was a citizen he could face the case, which will be forwarded to the Manhattan Supreme Court.
"The issues presented have become moot," the court said in a brief order.
Beth Wilkinson, Zervos' attorney, said they look forward for the case to be finally tried.
"Now a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice for Ms. Zervos, and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims," Wilkinson said in a statement.
Trump's legal team had filed the appeal in response to a New York appellate court ruling in March 2019 that the case could proceed.