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  • Writer's pictureAman Panjwani

Government Accountability Project Overcomes Objection to Filing Amicus Brief in Defamation Lawsuit


October 21, 2020

WASHINGTON –Yesterday, Judge Robert A. Kaplan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the motion of the Government Accountability Project to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of E. Jean Carroll in her long-standing defamation suit against President Donald J. Trump.

Carroll sued Trump in a New York state court in Manhattan alleging that the president defamed her by accusing her of lying to sell books in the wake of her account that Trump had raped her. After state courts rejected Trump’s efforts to sidetrack the case, the White House expressly asked Attorney General William P. Barr to have the case “removed” to federal court. If successful, this would have had the effect of killing the case because the Federal Torts Claims Act does not permit defamation claims against federal government employees.

Barr promptly filed a motion citing the Westfall Act as grounds to have the United States substituted for Trump as the defendant. According to Barr, everything the president says on issues of public concern constitutes part of his official duties. Even defaming the reputations of his accusers serves the president in proving to the public his fitness for duty.

Carroll’s counsel opposed Barr’s motion to substitute the United States for Trump, have the case removed, and the lawsuit dismissed.

Government Accountability Project’s brief expressed alarm about Mr. Barr’s pervasive politicization of the Department of Justice, whose credibility Barr is undermining. On the merits, the brief said the federal court should deny Mr. Trump immunity because his public statements concerning Ms. Carroll are part of a pattern that began long before Mr. Trump entered upon his duties as President, which demonstrates that doing so was in his personal interests and not part of his employment duties as President. Moreover, the brief said that to do otherwise will chill whistleblowers and other truthtellers who seek to use the courts to hold prominent individuals accountable for their wrongdoing.

The Department of Justice filed a seven-page brief arguing the court should reject Government Accountability Project’s proffered amicus brief. Litigation Director for Government Accountability Project, John Kolar, commented:

Prior to my work at Government Accountability Project, I served with the Department of Justice for 41 years. I am astonished that the DOJ would spend so much of its time and resources opposing our amicus curiae brief. Government Accountability Project is gratified the court accepted the filing.

Judge Kaplan is scheduled to hold a hearing today on Trump’s motion.

Contact: Andrew Harman, Director of Communications Email: Phone: (202) 457-0034 x156

Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.


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