Appellate division Judge David Friedman temporarily lifted a gag order on former President Donald Trump from the bench Thursday while the former president appeals the order.
“Considering the constitutional and statutory rights at issue an interim stay is granted,” the judge wrote.
The gag order was originally issued by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over a civil bench trial regarding fraud committed by Trump Organization. This week, the defense filed a motion to declare a mistrial.
Judge Friedman questioned Judge Engoron’s authority to police Trump’s speech outside the courtroom, stating that gag orders are often issued in criminal cases where the defendant may influence a jury.
President Trump has already been fined, and has paid, $15,000 in violation of the gag order, which prohibits him from making any statements about the judge’s staff. On Oct. 3, a day after the trial began, he made a Truth Social post about Allison Greenfield, Justice Engoron’s principal law clerk, including a screenshot of her campaign Instagram where she posed with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) at a political event.
The post was deleted 10 minutes later after the judge was made aware of it, and Justice Engoron issued a gag order verbally in court the same day.
President Trump was fined $5,000 later when the judge was informed that one of President Trump’s campaign websites retained a page archiving the original Truth Social post, and later fined $10,000 when President Trump mentioned in remarks to the press a “partisan” person sitting “alongside” the judge without using a name.
This led to defense attorneys arguing with the judge about the appearance of impropriety, and later potential bias in the case. The judge responded by expanding the gag order to prohibit defense attorneys from making statements about his staff, or the communications between the judge and his staff.
Ms. Greenfield sits alongside the judge, and he frequently consults her during the trial. Defense attorneys had noted her “rolling her eyes” during their questioning of witnesses and passing the judge notes; this angered the judge and the exchange rose to the level of yelling between the judge and attorneys.
On Thursday, defense attorney Alina Habba was asked whether she would advise President Trump against making remarks about Ms. Greenfield.
“I don’t see a reason for restrictions because Ms. James is continuing to disparage my client,” Ms. Habba said.
“Both sides need to be able to speak and the fact that I, frankly, couldn’t and my client couldn’t speak for the past however many days, is so unconstitutional.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James brought the case against President Trump, and won a summary judgment on Sept. 26 ruling that President Trump did inflate his net worth and was therefore liable for fraud. The ongoing trial requires state attorneys to prove out intent to defraud, and is expected to run through mid-December.
In the defense’s mistrial motion, they outlined the gag order and the behavior it prevents counsel from criticizing at length, arguing it contributes to the appearance of impropriety.
They argued that the court “impermissibly exceeded its discretion” by giving Ms. Greenfield “unprecedented status and input” in the trial, accusing the judge of “co-judging” the case with his clerk.
“Only a judge, not an unelected staff member, may exercise judicial authority under the New York Constitution, and the People of New York declined to elect the Principal Law Clerk when she ran for office,” the motion reads.
Ms. Greenfield had previously run for Manhattan Civil Court in 2022. The defense has criticized her as “partisan,” noting she has given campaign contributions exceeding $500 per fiscal year, in violation of New York court ethics rules. The mistrial motion accuses Ms. Greenfield of portraying her participation in a high profile real estate case as an equal with the judge, citing her remarks that “we tried to stop the two towers” in that case.
They criticize her judicial philosophy, pointing to her saying, “I think is incredibly important to consider, what would the people who elected me want me to do and is there any precedent … that would allow me to achieve that outcome,” which they argue runs “contrary” to being “faithful to the law.”
Defense attorneys noted that after they protested in court about the “constant note-passing,” the camera angles were changed, preventing those viewing the trial from seeing whether notes were being passed.
The New York Attorney General’s office has requested a deadline extension until Dec. 8 to file a response to the motion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times