By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump asked New York state's highest court to delay a defamation lawsuit against him by a former contestant on his reality television show "The Apprentice" who claimed he sexually harassed her.
In a filing on Monday, Trump told the state's Court of Appeals that Summer Zervos' lawsuit should be put on hold because a sitting U.S. president is immune from being sued in a state court during his term in the White House.
Trump, who has denied Zervos' allegations, is challenging a March 20 ruling by Justice Jennifer Schecter of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan allowing the case to proceed.
Saying "no one is above the law," Schecter rejected Trump's claim of immunity over private conduct predating his becoming president.
An intermediate state appeals court on May 17 refused to halt Zervos' lawsuit, without ruling on its merits.
- PHOTOS: What's Brewing in Steamy Hallows, the Harry Potter-Inspired Cafe19 Pictures
- PHOTOS: Frida Kahlo at the Brooklyn Museum doesn't hold back23 Pictures
Trump said that refusal qualified as a "final appealable order" justifying intervention by the Court of Appeals.
Zervos' lawyer, Mariann Wong, said, "Defendant has lost his effort to stay this action twice already, and for good reason. No one is above the law.
"We look forward to proving defendant lied when he attacked Ms. Zervos for telling the truth about his unwanted sexual groping," Wong said in an email.
A preliminary conference before Schecter is scheduled for June 5, court records show.
Zervos accused Trump of subjecting her to unwanted kissing and groping after she sought career advice in 2007.
She came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump called such allegations by women "lies." He also retweeted a post calling Zervos' claims a "hoax."
Zervos said Trump defamed her by branding her a liar. She is seeking a retraction or an apology, compensatory damages and punitive damages in her lawsuit.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)