New York, NY – In a surprising turn of events, an appellate judge has temporarily lifted the gag order that prevented former President Donald Trump from commenting on court personnel involved in his civil fraud trial. The move raises concerns over the violation of Trump’s free speech rights and brings the trial into uncharted territory. This unprecedented decision comes after Trump openly criticized a court clerk on social media, leading to the imposition of the gag order. The new ruling allows Trump and his lawyers to freely express their views regarding the case while the appeals process proceeds.
A gag order issued by trial judge Arthur Engoron prohibited Donald Trump from making any comments about court personnel involved in his New York civil fraud trial. However, Judge David Friedman of the state’s intermediate appeals court issued a stay on the gag order, suspending its enforcement. Friedman expressed reservations about the violation of the former president’s free speech rights, marking a significant development in the trial.
Engoron had imposed the gag order on Trump after the former president launched a disparaging social media post targeting Engoron’s court clerk during the trial’s second day on October 2nd. Subsequently, Trump’s lawyers were also included in the order after questioning the clerk’s influence within the courtroom. Engoron not only fined Trump $15,000 for the violations but also expanded the order to prevent attorneys from commenting on “confidential communications” between him and his staff.
Judge Friedman raised concerns about Engoron’s authority to regulate Trump’s speech outside the courtroom, such as his frequent complaints on social media and comments to the media at the courthouse. While gag orders are common in criminal cases to prevent influencing the jury, Friedman questioned their necessity in civil cases. In response to the gag order, Trump’s legal team filed a lawsuit against Engoron, challenging it as an abuse of power.
During an emergency hearing held on Thursday, Attorney Alina Habba, representing Trump, stated that there was no reason for restrictions since the court clerk, Allison Greenfield, continued to make disparaging remarks about Trump. Habba argued that both sides should have the right to speak freely, emphasizing that the past few days of silence for her and her client were violations of the Constitution.
Throughout the trial, Trump and his lawyers have scrutinized Greenfield’s role in the courtroom, alleging her bias as a former Democratic judicial candidate in Judge Engoron’s decisions. While Engoron has defended her role, the ongoing clash has resulted in fines and the imposition of a gag order. Trump’s lawyers contend that Engoron’s orders suppress free speech, particularly when it comes to core political speech by a potential 2024 presidential nominee facing severe penalties and potential business prohibitions in the state.
The lifting of the gag order by Judge Friedman grants Trump the freedom to openly criticize court staff, including the court clerk. As the appeals process unfolds, this will undoubtedly intensify the ongoing battle between the former president and the New York Attorney General’s office.