Judge lifts gag order that barred Donald Trump from maligning court staff

16 November 2023, 20:44

Donald Trump
Election 2024 Trump. Picture: PA

Judge David Friedman, of the state’s intermediate appeals court, cited constitutional concerns about restricting Trump’s free speech.

A New York appeals court judge on Thursday paused a gag order that barred Donald Trump from commenting on court staff in his civil fraud trial.

The trial judge had imposed the gag order last month and later fined Trump 15,000 dollars (£12,000) for violations after the former president made a disparaging social media post about a court clerk.

Judge David Friedman, of the state’s intermediate appeals court, cited constitutional concerns about restricting Trump’s free speech.

He issued a stay of the gag order, allowing Trump to comment freely about court staff while a longer appeals process plays out.

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Donald Trump speaks outside the courtroom after giving evidence in in New York (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP)

Trump’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against the trial judge, Arthur Engoron, late on Wednesday, challenging the gag order as an abuse of power.

Judge Friedman scheduled an emergency hearing on Thursday around a conference table in a state appellate court a couple of miles from where the trial is unfolding.

Trump’s lawyers had asked the appeals judge to scrap the gag order and fines imposed by the trial judge, Arthur Engoron, after the former president and his attorneys claimed that a law clerk was wielding improper influence.

Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly put the law clerk, Allison Greenfield, under a microscope during the trial.

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Donald Trump in court flanked by his lawyers (Seth Wenig, Pool/AP)

They contend that the former Democratic judicial candidate is a partisan voice in Judge Arthur Engoron’s ear – though he also is a Democrat – and that she is playing too big a role in the case involving the former Republican president.

Judge Engoron has defended her role in the courtroom, ordering participants in the trial not to comment on court staff and fining Trump for what the judge deemed violations.

Judge Engoron went on last week to prohibit lawyers in the case from commenting on “confidential communications” between him and his staff.

Trump’s lawyers who, separately, sought a mistrial on Wednesday, say Judge Engoron’s orders are unconstitutionally suppressing free speech, and not just any free speech.

“This constitutional protection is at its apogee where the speech in question is core political speech, made by the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, regarding perceived partisanship and bias at a trial where he is subject to hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and the threatened prohibition of his lawful business activities in the state,” they wrote in a legal filing.

By Press Association

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