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A New York appeals court judge on Thursday temporarily lifted a gag order preventing former President Donald Trump from commenting on court staffers in his civil fraud trial.
Trump was gagged last month by judge Arthur Engoron, and later fined $15,000 for violations after he talked trash on social media about the Judge’s top law clerk.
On Wednesday, Trump’s attorneys filed a lawsuit against the trial judge – arguing that the Engoron had abused his power. In response to the request, Judge David Friedman of the state’s intermediate appeals court scheduled an emergency hearing Thursday afternoon around a conference table in a state appellate courthouse just a few miles from Engoron’s courtroom, where he granted their request.
Ruling at an emergency hearing Thursday, Friedman questioned Engoron’s authority to police Trump’s speech outside the courtroom — such as his frequent gripes about the case on social media and in comments to TV cameras in the courthouse hallway.
Friedman said that while it’s true that judges often issue gag orders, they’re mostly used in criminal cases where there’s a fear that comments about the case could influence the jury. Trump’s civil trial doesn’t have a jury.
Trump lawyer Christopher Kise said after Friedman ruled that 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.” –AP
“I don’t see a reason for restrictions because Ms. James is continuing to disparage my client,” said Trump attorney Alina Habba, referring to NY Attorney General Letitia James, who is prosecuting the case.
In staying the order, Trump can now freely comment about the court and its staff while the appeals process plays out.
Separately on Wednesday, Trump’s legal team urged Engoron to stop the case immediately, arguing that his appearance of bias “threatens both Defendants’ rights and the integrity of the judiciary as an institution.”
“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,” the filing continues.
In short, the entertainment factor with Trump’s NY trial just went up immeasurably.
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