A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which a former campaign staffer accused President Donald Trump of kissing her against her will and alleged that Trump’s presidential bid engaged in pay discrimination against female and African American employees.
Alva Johnson’s claim she was “forcibly kissed” by Trump at an August 2016 campaign stop in Tampa, Florida, garnered most of the attention when she filed suit last February, but the discrimination claims were the subject of most of the early legal maneuvering in the case.
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U.S. District Court Judge William Jung, a Trump appointee, tossed out Johnson’s complaint Friday, saying it was too laden with political claims and attacks for the court to allow it to proceed.
“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.”
While Jung dismissed the suit in its present form, he said he would allow Johnson to file a reframed complaint in the next 30 days.
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.
“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, calling the laundry list of past allegations “immaterial and impertinent” to Johnson’s claims.
The Tampa-based Jung also questioned whether some white male Trump campaign workers Johnson is pointing to as being better paid actually had duties similar to hers. She says she started out working for Trump in January 2016 as director of outreach and coalitions for the Alabama GOP primary and later did similar work in Florida.
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.
Johnson’s suit, which was framed as a collective action on behalf of other staffers who suffered discrimination, was filed by the Washington-based law firm Tycko and Zavareei, the Florida-based firm Varnell & Warwick, and the California-based public interest firm Public Justice.
Spokespeople for the firm and the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling.