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Trump seeks to appeal reinstated gag orders in New York civil fraud case

Published 12/04/2023, 10:36 AM
Updated 12/04/2023, 04:36 PM
© Reuters. Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rallies with supporters at a "commit to caucus" event at a Whiskey bar in Ankeny, Iowa, U.S. December 2, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Former U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking permission to appeal a decision reinstating gag orders in his New York civil fraud case to the state's highest court, a court filing showed on Monday.

Justice Arthur Engoron imposed a gag order on Trump on Oct. 3 barring him from speaking publicly about court staff.

Engoron acted after Trump shared on social media a photo of the judge's top law clerk posing with U.S. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and falsely called her Schumer's "girlfriend." The post left the court "inundated" with hundreds of threats made by Trump supporters, Engoron said in a court filing.

Engoron later restricted Trump's lawyers statements about his staff in a separate order.

An appeals court judge temporarily paused the gag orders on Nov. 16, but they were reinstated by a mid-level state appeals court last Thursday.

Engoron already has fined Trump $15,000 for twice violating the gag order on him, promising steeper penalties for future violations possibly including imprisonment.

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 U.S. election, is accused in the case of unlawfully overstating his net worth by billions of dollars to dupe lenders and insurers. The trial has focused on damages because Engoron already found that Trump's financial statements were fraudulent.

In Monday's filing, Trump lawyer Clifford Robert asked the mid-level appeals court, known as the Appellate Division, to allow Trump to appeal its reinstatement of the orders to the Albany-based Court of Appeals.

Robert said the orders violated the U.S. and New York state Constitutions by restricting Trump's "First Amendment right to highlight serious concerns raised by the public and partisan activities of Justice Engoron's Principal Law Clerk during an ongoing bench trial."

A First Department judge on Monday denied Trump's request for permission to appeal the orders on an expedited basis. Justice Sallie Manzanet-Daniels gave the office of state Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case against Trump and his family real estate company, until Dec. 11 to respond to Trump's request to appeal.

A spokesperson for the office declined to comment.

James is seeking $250 million in penalties, and wants Trump banned from New York state real estate business.

© Reuters. Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rallies with supporters at a

Trump has denied wrongdoing and has accused James, a Democrat, of political bias against him.

Trump is under a similar gag order in a federal criminal case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith in which the former president is accused of unlawful actions in seeking to overturn his loss in the 2020 U.S. election. In all, Trump faces four federal and state criminal indictments. He has pleaded not guilty in all of those cases.

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