OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
An appellate court judge in New York has handed former President Donald Trump a legal victory in his civil fraud trial, lifting a gag order imposed on him by the lower court judge presiding over the case.
According to The Associated Press, the gag order was imposed after the former president made disparaging remarks about the law clerk assisting Judge Arthur Engoron, but Judge David Friedman of the state’s intermediate appeals court blocked the order on Thursday, citing free speech issues.
Engoron imposed the gag order Oct. 3 following Trump’s remarks about his law clerk on the second day of the trial involving New York Attorney General Letitia James’ claims that the former president overvalued his assets to obtain more favorable loan rates. Engoron previously ruled that Trump engaged in fraud, so now Engoron must determine whether to grant her demand for a $250 million fine and a permanent ban on Trump doing business in the state.
The AP added:
Engoron later fined Trump $15,000 for violating the gag order and expanded it to include his lawyers after they questioned clerk Allison Greenfield’s prominent role on the bench, where she sits alongside the judge, exchanging notes and advising him during testimony. Friedman’s ruling allows the lawyers to again comment about court staff, as well.
At an emergency hearing Thursday, Friedman questioned Engoron’s authority to police what Trump says outside the courtroom. He also disputed the trial judge’s contention that restricting the 2024 Republican front-runner’s speech was necessary or the right remedy to protect his staff’s safety.
“Considering the constitutional and statutory rights at issue, an interim stay is granted,” Friedman said as he wrote down his decision on a court order.
Trump responded to the reversal on his Truth Social platform:
Trump Hating, Radical Left Judge, Arthur Engoron, is, sadly, the most overturned Judge in New York State. He was just stayed on his Gag Order, which Unconstitutionally prohibited me & my attorneys from talking about important elements of a Fraud case where it was he & Letitia James that committed the Fraud by knowingly, substantially, & outrageously devaluing my asset values in order to make me look guilty of something which I did not do. In actuality, witnesses & experts have proven conclusively that my Financial Statements Value is LOW, or very Conservative, not HIGH, as they were claiming.
A.G. James & Engoron worked in COLLUSION to make some assets many times lower in Value than they are. By doing this, they ridiculously & wrongfully, without Knowledge, Trial, or Jury (which is not allowed in this case!), ruled that I was guilty of FRAUD. This HOAX is a public relations disaster for New York State. Violent Crime is raging, and companies are FLEEING, never to be seen in N.Y. again!
The appeals court ruling is in response to a lawsuit Trump’s attorneys filed against Engoron, arguing that his order was a First Amendment violation.
Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, praised the temporary stay as the “right decision.”
Friedman has “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,” Kise said.
Another Trump attorney, Alina Habba, pointed out that James “is continuing to disparage” her client and that “both sides need to be able to speak.”
Famed law Prof. Jonathan Turley said earlier this month that the gag order imposed on Trump was “unconstitutional” after an appeals court temporarily froze it.
“They decided in perhaps an abundance of caution to order this stoppage until they can give it a full review,” the professor said. “The reason I think this could be quite significant is because I think the order is unconstitutional.”