Former President Donald Trump has been ordered by a New York Supreme Court judge to pay nearly $400,000 in legal fees to the New York Times.
This comes after his lawsuit against the publication was dismissed, a lawsuit that Trump filed in 2021, alleging that the Times, along with three of its reporters (Susanne Craig, David Barstow, and Russell Buettner), and his niece, Mary Trump, had conspired to improperly obtain his confidential tax records to smear him.
Alina Habba, Trump’s lawyer, claims that Mary Trump violated a 2001 confidentiality agreement signed during the settlement of Fred Trump’s will after his passing in 1999. The Times journalists are alleged to have committed tortious interference by persuading Mary Trump to disclose the tax information.
“Donald J. Trump’s public service to this great country aside, it is of paramount importance to note that he is a private citizen who is entitled to the same contractual rights, privileges and protections as any other person,” Habba wrote.
“Yet, the defendants, through their tortious conduct, sought to deprive him of these basic, inherent rights. As a result, the fruits of the defendants’ illicit actions were unjustly and inequitably obtained and Donald J. Trump has suffered significant damages as a direct result of the defendants’ tortious conduct.”
Daily Beast reported at the time:
The lawsuit alleges that the newspaper convinced Mary Trump to “smuggle records out of her attorney’s office and turn them over to the Times” despite a confidentiality agreement she signed in 2001 while settling a legal battle over the will of Frederick Trump, Donald’s father and Mary’s grandfather.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Dutchess County, New York, by attorney Alina Habba, seeks damages “in an amount to be determined at trial, but believed to be no less than One Hundred Million Dollars” from both Mary Trump and the Times.
It follows a suit filed by Charles Harder on behalf of Donald Trump’s brother Robert to try and stop Mary Trump and publisher Simon & Schuster from releasing her memoir, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
Judge Hal Greenwald ruled in that case that the 2001 confidentiality agreement had been too vaguely defined to stop her from writing about the sitting president and noted that her publisher had not been a signatory to that agreement. Robert Trump died in August 2020.
The judge ruled in May that reporters were “entitled to engage in legal and ordinary news-gathering activities without fear or tort liability — as their actions are at the very core of protected first amendment activity.”
On Friday, Judge Robert Reed ruled against former President Donald Trump, ordering him to pay $392,638.69 to The New York Times.
The hefty financial penalty imposed on Trump covers all attorney fees, legal expenses, and related costs incurred by the Times in defending against the lawsuit.
“This court granted the moving defendants’ motion, dismissed plaintiff’s claims as asserted against them, and directed plaintiff Donald Trump to pay the accumulated attorneys’ fees, legal expenses, and costs of the moving defendants, pursuant to, and in accordance with, the provisions of NY Civil Rights Law,” the court document read.
You can read the court order here.
Law and Crime reported:
The claim from Trump was dismissed by a New York Supreme Court judge last May, who found that reporters were “entitled to engage in legal and ordinary news-gathering activities without fear or tort liability — as their actions are at the very core of protected first amendment activity.”
In an email, Danielle Rhoades Ha, the senior vice president for external communications at the Times told said the judge’s decision “shows that the state’s newly amended anti-SLAPP statute can be a powerful force for protecting press freedom.”
“The court has sent a message to those who want to misuse the judicial system to try to silence journalists,” Ha added.