In February of this year, a former staffer on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign filed a lawsuit that alleged that Trump had once kissed her without consent and accused the campaign of gender- and race-based wage discrimination.
That lawsuit was just dismissed by a federal judge in Florida, who used his 15-page order of dismissal to scold the plaintiff and her attorneys for pursuing political retribution falsely disguised as wage discrimination claims.
Politico reported that Alva Johnson, a black woman from Alabama who’d joined Trump’s campaign to work in Alabama and Florida, alleged in her lawsuit that Trump had “forcibly kissed” her without consent prior to a rally in Tampa in August 2016. To prove her claim and establish a pattern of conduct, she cited numerous other alleged incidents said to have been perpetrated by the president.
Johnson also alleged in the lawsuit that the campaign had engaged in wage discrimination against black and female staffers by paying white, male staffers more for conducting similar duties. Johnson had hoped to transform both allegations into class-action lawsuits involving other individuals with similar claims against the president.
But U.S. District Judge William Jung, who was appointed by Trump, found Johnson’s arguments to be rather unconvincing and dismissed the entire lawsuit with prejudice, though he did grant her 30 days to file an amended complaint that would take into considerations the legal points he made in his dismissal order.
In his 15-page ruling, Judge Jung wrote: “As currently stated, the Complaint presents a political lawsuit, not a tort and wages lawsuit. 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.”
A political statement
The judge went on to note that Johnson claimed to have been “humiliated” by the alleged incident on Aug. 24, 2016, but it was only after the Access Hollywood tapes of Trump speaking coarsely about women were released in October that Johnson resigned from the campaign.
“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,” the judge wrote. “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.”
The judge also took exception to the inclusion of numerous media reports in the suit as citations for the other alleged incidents.
“These allegations, salacious and in florid language, appear to come from media reports. Indeed, in attempting to set forth a cause of action for simple battery, the Complaint cites approximately 40 different media reports or newspaper articles,” he wrote.
Judge Jung wrote that regardless of any potential similarities in the several instances or even their scandalous nature, they were “nonetheless immaterial and impertinent” to Johnson’s claim, and therefore inadmissible by law and past precedent to this particular case.
As to the alleged wage discrimination that was said to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Equal Pay Act, Judge Jung said Johnson failed to prove that those laws even applied to a political campaign and not a business or commercial entity. He also said she failed to prove that the other staffers she claimed were paid more had actually held similar positions with similar duties as her.
The judge ultimately dismissed the case, but he did provide Johnson 30 days to amend and refile her lawsuit, if she chooses, in a much more succinct manner that excluded the extraneous allegations about other women and provides actual evidence for her discrimination claims.