The New York State Attorney General's civil lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, President Donald Trump and his three oldest children can proceed after a state court judge on Friday denied their motion to dismiss the case.
In her decision, Justice Saliann Scarpulla ruled that a sitting president could face a civil trial in state court for actions not taken in his official capacity. That ruling puts Scarpulla in agreement with another recent ruling against Trump, a decision in the defamation trial brought against him by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice."
And, Scarpulla said, it is in line with the US Supreme Court's 1997 ruling regarding President Bill Clinton in response to Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit.
"Allowing this action to proceed is consistent with the Supreme Court's holding in Clinton v. Jones that the President of the United States 'subject the laws for his purely private acts,'" wrote Scarpulla.
As she did in court in October, the judge noted that Trump appealed the Zervos decision, and if the appeals court rules in favor, the General Attorney's Office would probably need to amend its lawsuit to remove Trump himself as a defendant.
The Trump Foundation case is considered in the New York Supreme Court, the state's trial court.
The suit, filed in June, names as defendants the foundation, Trump and his children Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump, all of whom sat on the charity's board. It alleged that they violated federal and state charities law with a "persistent" pattern of conduct that included unlawful coordination with the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
The attorney general's office, led by Barbara Underwood, seeks to dissolve the Trump Foundation and wants $ 2.8 million in restitution, plus additional penalties. The office is also seeking to ban Trump from serving as a director of any non-profit New York for 10 years and to ban the other board members, the Trump children, from serving for one year.
"As we detailed in our petition earlier this year, the Trump Foundation functioned as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump's business and political interests," Underwood said in a statement Friday. "There are rules that govern private foundations – and we intend to perform them, no matter who runs the foundation."
Alan Futerfas, attorney for the defendants, said, "The decision only means that the case goes forward. As we have maintained, all of the money raised by the Foundation went to charitable causes to help those most in need."
He added: "As a result, we remain confident in the ultimate outcome of these proceedings."
The judge gave the defendants 45 days to respond to the trial.