U.S. District Court Judge William Jung isn’t going to let his courtroom turn into a political battleground. He delivered that message loud and clear Friday when he tossed out a complaint brought by a former Trump campaign staffer. Alva Johnson claims that during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, he kissed her without her consent. She also alleges pay inequity for women and African-Americans on the campaign.
Ms. Johnson served as director of outreach and coalitions in Alabama during the GOP primary in 2016. Later she did the same work in Florida. Her story is that in August 2016, she had a brief interaction with Trump during a campaign trip through Florida. They were traveling in an RV and during a stop, just before Trump stepped out of the RV, she told him to “go kick ass” and then for some reason, she told him she hadn’t seen her family in a long time. Trump took her hand and leaned closer to her as she spoke, she said. By the way, this woman is a human resource professional. She, however, claims candidate Trump acted inappropriately. She’s traumatized, you see.
“I knew it was inappropriate because I worked in human resources. So I knew that it was completely inappropriate,” Johnson told MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “It was gross and creepy. Like I could sometimes still see those lips.”
In a scorching rebuke, Judge Jung put the brakes on this lawsuit.
“Though this simple battery appears to have lasted perhaps 10-15 seconds, plaintiff has spent 29 pages and 115 paragraphs in the complaint setting it forth. Many of these allegations describe 19 unrelated incidents involving women upon whom Defendant Trump allegedly committed nonconsensual acts, over the past four decades with differing circumstances,” Jung wrote in his order.
Judge Jung went on in his 15-page order to call it a political statement and his courtroom is not the forum for it.
“As currently stated, the Complaint presents a political lawsuit, not a tort and wages lawsuit,” Jung wrote in his 15-page order. “Plaintiff will receive a fair day in court, but the Court will try a tort and wages dispute—not a political one. If Plaintiff wishes to make a political statement or bring a claim for political purposes, this is not the forum.”
The judge said the portion of Johnson’s suit dealing with the alleged unwanted kiss was unfocused and dragged in more than a dozen other Trump acts that are not legally relevant to the question of whether Trump kissed her without her consent, something Trump aides and supporters present that day have denied.
In other words, she was running with all kinds of claims that didn’t necessarily involve herself and had nothing to do with this alleged kiss. She was just trying to beef up her own lawsuit, and perhaps justify it. The Trump campaign denied her claims from the get-go. Her lawsuit was framed as a collective action on behalf of Ms. Johnson and other staffers. The judge questioned the pay inequity charge, too.
The judge also faulted Johnson’s attorneys for using numerous press reports to support allegations in the suit. And he raised doubts about whether the Trump campaign, as a primarily political endeavor, was covered by federal laws against pay discrimination.
This looks like a questionable story where a former campaign staffer feels slighted for whatever reason and wants some validation for her feelings. Maybe she wanted a job with the Trump administration and didn’t get one. Whatever her motivation, it certainly sounds as though her legal counsel failed to file a decently worded complaint. Her story just sounds odd.
The judge said he will allow Johnson to file a reframed complaint within the next 30 days. This is the latest in a series of wins for President Trump over lawsuits filed by women claiming sexual misconduct or abuse by him. Though the judge promised a fair hearing for Ms. Johnson, her lead attorney expressed his disappointment and called President Trump “the most powerful sex predator in the world.”
Johnson’s lead attorney Hassan Zavareei expressed disappointment with the judge’s order effectively reining in the litigation.
“While we are pleased that the Judge said that Ms. Johnson ‘will receive a fair day in Court,’ today was not such a day,” Zavareei said in a statement. “This erroneous ruling forces us to fight this lawsuit against the most powerful sex predator in the world with our hands tied behind our back. But that does not deter us. We are used to fighting tough fights and will continue to do so here.”
Sounds like Judge Jung made the right call.