Trump Comment Unravels His Residency Argument Against NY Jurisdiction, Roberta Kaplan Says

New York Law Journal
Published on:
June 15, 2020
Seth Wenig/AP
Kaplan, who represents author E. Jean Carroll, said Trump, who is contesting jurisdiction in a defamation suit brought by Carroll, can't say in court that he isn't domiciled in Manhattan, while claiming to be a New Yorker when it suits him

President Donald Trump recently told a group of state governors that he lives in Manhattan, despite arguing in an ongoing lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court that he is not subject to personal jurisdiction in New York, according to new filings Monday.

Roberta Kaplan of Kaplan Hecker & Fink, who is representing advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in a defamation suit filed against Trump last fall, on Monday filed a motion to strike Trump’s affirmative defense on the basis of his June 1 comments.

Kaplan said Trump can’t say in court that he isn’t domiciled in Manhattan, while claiming to be a New Yorker when it suits him.

Trump was discussing ongoing protests against police brutality with the governors, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, when he began reflecting on the response of the New York City Police Department, Kaplan wrote, citing an NPR account of the call.

“Now what happened in New York, I have to tell you, I live in Manhattan,” Trump said, according to the filing. “What’s going on in Manhattan, I have no idea. New York’s finest. … They need to do their jobs. I don’t know what’s happening in Manhattan, but it’s terrible. And because it’s New York, because it’s Manhattan, it gets a lot of press. So they really spend a lot of time on it. But New York is going to have to toughen up and we’ll send you National Guard if you want.”

Trump filed a motion to dismiss the suit in January on the basis of several arguments, including that he is immune, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, from lawsuits in state court while serving as president.

He has made a virtually identical claim in another defamation lawsuit filed by a woman who, like Carroll, accused him of sexual misconduct. That case, Zervos v. Trump, is currently pending before the New York Court of Appeals.

Attorneys for Carroll and Trump agreed this spring that a deposition of Trump and a DNA test will not take place until the Court of Appeals has reached its decision in Zervos.

During a hearing before New York County Supreme Court Justice Verna Saunders in March, Trump’s attorneys argued that all discovery in the Carroll case should halt while Zervos is pending, while Carroll’s attorneys argued that they should be able to move forward with other discovery.

Saunders has yet to issue a decision in the matter.

In Monday’s filing, Kaplan noted that people seeking to establish a domicile outside New York face a heavy burden due to the tax implications of such a move. She argued that no other location currently serves as both Trump’s “residence in fact” and a place where he intends to make “a fixed and permanent home.”

“We obviously do not dispute that Trump currently resides at the White House in Washington, D.C.,” she wrote. But Trump’s time at the White House is, as a matter of constitutional law, “temporary.”

Trump has indicated he plans to move to Florida after his presidency, but Kaplan argued that a plan to move does not constitute changing one’s domicile. Moreover, Kaplan wrote, making a permanent residence at the Mar-a-Lago Club is illegal under Florida law, because the club’s land use agreement limits members’ use of rooms to a maximum of three nonconsecutive weeks in a year.

A spokeswoman for Kasowitz Benson Torres, which has represented Trump in the Carroll suit, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Read this article at New York Law Journal here.

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