NY appeals court judge pauses gag order in Trump civil fraud case -court document

By Jack Queen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A New York appeals court judge on Thursday paused a gag order that had barred Donald Trump from speaking publicly about court staff amid the former U.S. president’s civil fraud trial.

Appeals court Justice David Friedman said the gag order would be temporarily lifted.

“Considering the constitutional and statutory rights at issue, an interim stay is granted,” Friedman wrote in a filing.

Trump’s lawyers, who are also subject to the gag order, argued that the former U.S. president is entitled to speak publicly about the “perceived partisanship and bias” of the trial, where he faces hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and a partial breakup of his real estate empire.

The judge overseeing the case, Justice Arthur Engoron, imposed the limited gag order on Oct. 3 after Trump shared a post attacking his top clerk on social media. He has fined Trump a total of $15,000 for twice violating the order.

Alina Habba, Trump’s attorney, said in a statement that she was pleased to see the appellate court “restore some much needed respect for constitutional rights” in what she called a “political circus” orchestrated by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

James’ office did not seek the gag order, which Engoron imposed on his own initiative.

James, an elected Democrat, accuses Trump, his two adult sons and 10 of his businesses of inflating their assets by as much as $2.2 billion to secure more favorable loan and insurance terms.

Engoron has already ruled that Trump provided lenders and insurers with fraudulent financial statements and ordered the dissolution of companies controlling crown jewels of his real estate empire, including Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan. The order is on hold pending Trump’s appeal.

The trial largely concerns damages. James is seeking at least $250 million in penalties and a New York commercial real estate ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.

The case is part of a maelstrom of legal troubles Trump faces as he campaigns to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 2024 election, though none have diminished his commanding lead over Republican rivals.

He is under indictment in a total of four criminal cases, including two related to his efforts to overturn his loss to Biden in the 2020 election.

(Reporting by Jack Queen, Ismail Shakil, Katharine Jackson; Editing by Caitlin Webber, Eric Beech and Daniel Wallis)