SEATTLE'S MORNING NEWS

Can Trump get sued again over sexual harassment lawsuit?

May 18, 2023, 11:12 AM | Updated: 11:34 am

Trump lawsuit...

President Trump may be opening himself up to another lawsuit. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Former Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna said former President Donald Trump is opening himself to another lawsuit regarding his alleged sexual abuse of a woman in a department store.

Earlier this month, a jury in civil court found Trump liable for sexually abusing advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in 1996, awarding her $5 million.

The verdict was split: Jurors rejected Carroll’s claim that she was raped, finding Trump responsible for a lesser degree of sexual abuse. The judgment adds to Trump’s legal woes and offers vindication to Carroll, whose allegations had been mocked and dismissed by Trump for years.

Jurors also found Trump liable for defaming Carroll over her allegations. Trump repeated his comments in a CNN town hall last week, raising the possibility of another lawsuit.

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Dave Ross brought up the subject with McKenna on KIRO Newsradio’s Seattle’s Morning News.

“This sounds like it would be double jeopardy. So what does the law say about this?” Ross asked.

“First of all, double jeopardy is a concept from criminal law, which says that once you’ve been tried for a crime and acquitted, you can’t be tried for the same crime,” McKenna said. “Civil law is different than criminal law. There’s no concept of double jeopardy, but there is a concept that once you’ve sued for an injury, and you’ve won, you’ve been compensated, you can’t sue for the same injury and be compensated a second time.”

 

McKenna said the pivotal question is if Trump defamed her again, as he did in the CNN town hall by calling her a “wacko,” among other things, can she sue him again?

“Most of the experts that I’ve read believe that she could sue again because he’s repeating the same lies. So it’s causing her new harm,” McKenna explained. “The question is really a practical one, which is: how much would the damages be worth the second time?”

Could Carroll force Trump to stop making comments about her?

McKenna explained that another possibility would be for Carroll to persuade a court to issue an injunction forbidding him from saying the same things again.

“When you violate a court order, an injunction, you can be found in contempt of court,” McKenna said. “If you do that, that can result in major fines and even jail. A contempt of court is a serious matter.”

McKenna said at that point, it is not just about the plaintiff, Trump would be taking on the judicial system.

“The courts don’t like that,” he said. “So it’s interesting because there actually is no U.S. Supreme Court case law that says that you can obtain an injunction against defamatory speech. As one judge said, it’s court-ordered censorship.”

McKenna said that this had become a big issue in the age of the internet.

“If someone is defaming you over and over and over again, monetary relief isn’t really a relief, right?” said McKenna. “Libel and defamation can be done very easily and quickly and a lot by someone who’s determined to do it. So now you’re seeing some state courts say actually, as long as the restraint, the injunction is narrowly tailored to the specific defamatory statement that was previously resulted in damages, then it’s okay. Again, the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t reached that conclusion.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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