A New York appellate judge, David Friedman, recently suspended a gag order that had prohibited former President Donald Trump from making public comments about court staff in his ongoing civil fraud trial.
This gag order, initially imposed by trial judge Arthur Engoron on October 3, followed Trump’s disparaging remarks about a law clerk on social media. Engoron had expanded this order to include Trump’s lawyers and fined Trump $15,000 for violations.
Friedman’s decision to stay the gag order allows Trump and his legal team to speak freely about court staff while the appeals process continues. During an emergency hearing, Friedman raised concerns about the gag order’s impact on free speech, noting that such orders are more common in criminal cases to prevent jury influence. However, Trump’s trial does not involve a jury.
Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, responded to the ruling, stating, “The appellate judge made the right decision and allowed President Trump to take full advantage of his constitutional First Amendment rights to talk about bias in his own trial, what he’s seeing and witnessing in his own trial — which, frankly, everyone needs to see.”
Another attorney for Trump, Alina Habba, expressed no intention to advise Trump to refrain from commenting on the clerk. Habba pointed out the ongoing disparagement of Trump by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is prosecuting the case, and argued for the need for both sides to speak freely.
“I don’t see a reason for restrictions because Ms. James is continuing to disparage my client,” Habba said. “Both sides need to be able to speak.”
Trump and his legal team have scrutinized the role of law clerk Allison Greenfield in the trial, suggesting her involvement as a former Democratic judicial candidate indicates partisanship. They argue that Greenfield’s role is excessively influential in a case involving a former Republican president. Engoron has defended Greenfield’s courtroom role and ordered trial participants not to comment on court staff. He also prohibited attorneys from discussing confidential communications between him and his staff.
Trump’s lawyers, who separately sought a mistrial, argue that Engoron’s orders unjustly suppress free speech. They emphasize the importance of this issue, given Trump’s status as a leading figure in the Republican Party and the potential consequences of the trial, which include substantial financial penalties and restrictions on Trump’s business activities in New York.
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