Trump challenge to gag order in NY civil fraud trial rejected by appeals court

 December 15, 2023

In yet another twist in the battle between Judge Arthur Engoron and Donald Trump related to the latter's civil fraud trial, a New York appeals court this week rejected the former president's attempt to overturn a gag order preventing him from commenting about court staff involved with the case, as Reuters explains.

The gag order at issue was issued by Engoron back in early October in the wake of social media posts from Trump discussing the judge's principal law clerk and alleging ties to prominent Democrats such as Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Engoron claimed that the court was soon “inundated” with threats from those who support the former president, a fact which he said justified the issuance of a gag order.

Not surprisingly, Trump pursued an appeal of the order, contending that it amounted to a violation of his First Amendment rights to free speech.

It was on Thursday, however, that the Appellate Division – the mid-level appeals court in New York -- rejected Trump's arguments, finding that the order itself had little practical impact.

The appellate order stated, “Here, the gravity of potential harm is small, given that the Gag Order is narrow, limited to prohibiting solely statements regarding the court's staff.”

On Friday, however, Trump indicated his intention to ask the state's highest court to review the validity of the gag order, as ABC News reports.

Trump's legal team filed notice that a request to the Court of Appeals in Albany is in the offing, though whether the move will gain any traction remains to be seen, given that the former president also lost a motion for leave to appeal.

As such, Trump would seemingly be forced to again ask Engoron to vacate his order, and then appeal once again after the expected denial, something which the former president would be hard pressed to accomplish, given that testimony in the trial has already wrapped, and closing arguments are slated for Jan. 11.

Chris Kise, an attorney for Trump, explained that the aforementioned constraints are the reason for the filing to the Court of Appeals, despite the denial of leave.

“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,” Kise said.

The lawyer went on, “Unfortunately, the decision denies President Trump the only path available to expedited relief and places his fundamental Constitutional rights on a procedural purgatory.”

Testimony in the civil fraud case in which Trump is accused of fraudulently inflating his net worth and asset values in order to secure favorable terms from lenders concluded earlier this week, with the former president deciding not to take the stand in his defense after having already testified earlier in the trial.

A decision from Engoron -- who has already ruled against Trump as to some aspects of the fraud claims leveled by Attorney General Letitia James -- is expected to come toward the end of January.