Updated Sep 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge rules Trump liable for defamation against E. Jean Carroll

E. Jean Carroll and her legal team arriving at a New York court in May 2023.

E. Jean Carroll and her legal team arriving at a New York court in May 2023. Photo: Luiz C. Ribeiro/N.Y. Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled former President Trump is liable for defamatory remarks he made against writer E. Jean Carroll when he denied her rape accusations in 2019.

Why it matters: Judge Lewis Kaplan's ruling is another major legal blow to the GOP presidential frontrunner, who is facing several criminal indictments and civil lawsuits, as the upcoming trial over the case will determine how much in damages Trump will owe Carroll.

  • Those damages will be in addition to the $5 million in damages a jury ordered him to pay to Carroll after holding him liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a separate trial earlier this year.
  • The jury did not find Trump liable for rape in the trial, though it was one of the types of battery the jurors were instructed to consider by the judge.

Context: Normally, a jury would determine at trial if a defendant is liable for defamation against the plaintiff.

  • But Judge Kaplan said in the ruling that, based on the findings and outcome of the previous trial, Carroll's motion for a partial judgement on Trump's liability in the current case should be granted ahead of the upcoming trial on Jan. 15, 2024.

What they're saying: "We look forward to trial limited to damages for the original defamatory statements Donald Trump made about our client E Jean Carroll in 2019," Carroll's counsel Roberta Kaplan said in a statement.

  • Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

The big picture: The ruling comes after a series of legal losses for Trump in the case.

  • In June, Carroll was allowed to amend her 2019 defamation lawsuit to include a request for fresh damages over remarks Trump made about her during a televised CNN town hall event in May.
  • In July, the Department of Justice said it would no longer conclude the former president was acting within the scope of office when he denied Carroll's rape accusations.
  • That broke down his previous argument that he should be granted immunity in the case because he made the remarks while speaking to the media as president.
  • Judge Kaplan in August threw out a counter defamation lawsuit from Trump against Carroll.

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