Filing a lawsuit should be a big deal. When one heads to court to seek redress, it should be only after careful deliberation and only after one has exhausted all other options. It’s time consuming, expensive and maybe most important it utilizes limited court resources. The only time I have ever filed suit was after two years of trying everything I could to avoid it.
Yet based on the response we received to Rachel Stockman’s terrific LawNewz exclusive yesterday on the sexual assault lawsuit that Jill Harth filed against Donald Trump in April, 1997, one might think we made the allegations, not Harth.
In her 59 paragraph complaint, signed by her at its conclusion, Harth alleged, among other things, that:
“the defendant (Trump) over the plaintiff’s objections forcibly prevented plaintiff from leaving and forcibly removed plaintiff to a bedroom, whereupon defendant (Trump) subjected plaintiff to defendant’s unwanted sexual advances, which included touching of plaintiff’s private parts in an act constituting attempted “rape”
Harth withdrew the lawsuit less than a month later telling LawNewz.com in an exclusive interview last week that she was “under duress” and “pressured” to file the case. When questioned about who applied that pressure, she wouldn’t say, but did state that she now supports Donald Trump’s candidacy and ”considers him a friend.” Fine, that is her prerogative.
She also has every right to withdraw the lawsuit either based on a settlement, change of heart, or even a recognition that her allegations were not truthful (if that was the case). But she does not have the right to lash out at us as she did because we covered and published her lawsuit.
When asked directly last week if the allegations were true, Harth avoided a direct answer saying only: “The allegations were twisted and embellished. Everything could be looked at in different way.” I have no idea what that means but she is under no obligation to answer that question. But once the fair, objective and well researched story was published she responded thusly:
“Your article is a piece of garbage. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Senior Editor Rachel Stockman responded: “Is there anything inaccurate? I included your comments that you told me over the phone.”
After a bit more back and forth Harth concluded her note with this gem: “You are just a tabloid scumbag.”
Wait, we should be “ashamed” because we reported on a 12 page federal court complaint filled with very serious allegations that you filed? If her lawsuit is actually a “piece of garbage” then that is Harth’s cross to bear, not ours. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are very clear on the requirements of any litigant:
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;
(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and
(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.
If you fail to adhere to those requirements, you can be subject to sanctions.
So what’s really “scummy” if I may borrow Harth’s words, is to file a detailed, specific lawsuit in federal court against a high profile individual (in part based on what she claimed were defamatory comments he made in the media) and then whine and insult the messenger when that incredibly detailed lawsuit you filed gets reported on.
Mr. Trump’s counsel Michael Cohen said about the allegations:
“There is no truth to the story at all. The plaintiff in the matter, Jill Harth, would acknowledge the same. You will see the case was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. There is no truth to it. Unfortunately, Jill was a pawn in a lawsuit that was created by her ex-husband. There is no validation to the matter and to write something about this nonsensical speculation, when both parties acknowledge there is no validity to the claim, would be unprofessional.”
And after the story was published, not surprisingly he called it “unprofessional and dishonest reporting.” After all, that is apparently how he often deals with those doing any aggressive reporting on Mr. Trump.
As for Ms. Harth, she seems to have forgotten who filed the suit in the first place.