Judge Arthur F. Trump before imposing a $10,000 fine for violating a gag order for the second time during the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, US. Angoron questioned former US President Donald Trump. , October 25, 2023 in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | reuters
A New York judge on Thursday temporarily suspended a gag order preventing former President Donald Trump from commenting to court staff in his $250 million civil business fraud trial.
Associate Justice David Friedman of the First Department of the New York Appellate Division granted a request by Trump’s defense lawyers for an interim stay on the gag orders, citing the “constitutional and statutory rights at issue.”
The ruling lifts gag orders imposed on both Trump and the lawyers defending him in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ high-stakes fraud case in Manhattan Supreme Court.
James’ office had urged the appeals judge to deny Trump’s request, arguing that doing so could put lower court staff “at risk of harassment or harm.”
Friedman’s summary judgment ordered James and Judge Arthur Angoron, who imposed the gag order, to submit opposing briefs by Wednesday afternoon. Trump’s lawyers have to respond by next Monday.
“Fortunately the Constitution and the First Amendment protect everyone, including President Trump,” defense attorney Christopher Keese said in a statement to CNBC.
“The public will again have full access to what is actually happening in this unprecedented trial,” Kise said.
James’ lawsuit accuses Trump, his two adult sons, the Trump Organization and top executives of falsely inflating the values of Trump’s properties to inflate his net worth and gain financial gain. She wants $250 million in damages and permanently barring Trump Sr., Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump from running businesses in New York.
Angoron blocked Trump from making public statements about his court staff on the second day of the trial, after Trump repeatedly targeted the judge’s principal law clerk.
A month later on November 3, Angoron extended the restraining order on Trump’s lawyers, accusing them of making “repeated, inappropriate comments” about the same law clerk. The judge said his chambers have been flooded with threats and harassment since the trial began.
Trump has already violated the narrow gag order twice and been fined a total of $15,000.
The request to block the gag orders came a day after Trump and his co-defendants sought a mistrial in the case, arguing that Angoron and his clerks are biased and that their conduct “has tainted these proceedings.”
Limiting his ability to address his alleged issues “is not appropriate and certainly not consistent with avoiding the appearance of impartiality,” the defendants wrote.
James’ office earlier Thursday condemned the “spurious allegations” in a bid to end the mistrial. Angoron has not yet responded in writing. The trial is expected to last until the end of December.
Trump, the top contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is fighting a separate gag order in his criminal election interference case in Washington, D.C., federal court.
That gag order barred Trump from making statements targeting prosecutors, potential witnesses and court staff in the case. A federal appeals court temporarily blocked the D.C. gag order earlier this month.