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Trump loses appeal to vacate gag orders in NY civil fraud trial

Former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Supreme Court on Oct. 24, 2023, during his civil fraud trial. (Luiz C. Ribeiro/New York Daily News/TNS)
December 19, 2023

A New York appeals court denied Donald Trump’s bid to overturn a gag order barring him from talking publicly about court employees during the state’s civil fraud trial against the former president.

Trump argued his free speech was being violated by the gag order barring him from publicly talking about the staff of Justice Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the trial. But an appellate panel ruled Thursday that the potential harm wasn’t sufficient to vacate the order.

“The gravity of potential harm is small, given that the gag order is narrow, limited to prohibiting solely statements regarding the court’s staff,” the panel said in a four-page opinion.

The ruling comes a day after the final witness in the trial testified and Engoron put the case on hold until Jan. 11, when he’ll hear closing arguments. The trial, in which Trump is accused of inflating his assets by billions of dollars to get better terms on loans, is one of six the former president is facing as he campaigns to return to the White House.

The appeals court said Trump jumped the gun by seeking to overturn the gag order through an “extraordinary” motion known as a writ of prohibition, which aims to expedite an appeal by bypassing another ruling from the trial judge.

‘Procedural Purgatory’

“We filed the petition because the ordinary appellate process is essentially pointless in this context as it cannot possibly be completed in time to reverse the ongoing harm,” Trump attorney Chris Kise said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the decision denies President Trump the only path available to expedited relief and places his fundamental constitutional rights in a procedural purgatory.”

Engoron imposed his first gag order at the start of the trial in early October, after Trump made false claims about his law clerk on social media and posted a photograph of her. The judge said the post resulted in a flood of threatening and harassing calls and emails to the judge’s chambers.

Trump was fined twice for violations: $5,000 for failing to remove a copy of the social-media post from his website, and $10,000 for later commenting about the clerk in remarks to the press outside the courtroom.

Engoron later expanded the gag order to include Trump’s lawyers after they made comments about the clerk in court as well.

The same appellate court on Nov. 30 denied Trump’s request to temporarily block the gag order while his challenge played out, reversing another judge who had granted a temporary stay Nov. 16.


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