New York County Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has issued a gag order on former President Donald Trump’s legal counsel, aiming to protect the confidentiality of communications within his staff. The move comes in the midst of a civil lawsuit brought against Trump and his eldest sons by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and it has raised questions about the conduct of the legal proceedings.
NEW: The judge presiding over Trump’s $250 million civil fraud trial expands his gag order to include Trump’s lawyers after he said they made "on the record, repeated, inappropriate remarks" about his clerk. pic.twitter.com/RbWOwlPYJ9
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 3, 2023
The order explicitly states, “All counsel are prohibited from making any public statements, in or out of court, that refer to any confidential communications, in any form, between my staff and me.” Engoron made it clear that “serious sanctions” will be imposed if the order is violated.
Engoron’s concern arose from repeated remarks made by Trump’s lawyers, Christopher Kise, Clifford Robert, and Alina Habba, regarding Principal Law Clerk Allison Greenfield’s courtroom antics. The attorneys had accused the clerk of bias and improper influence over the ongoing bench trial, complaining about the suspicious passing of notes between her and Engoron amid sittings.
According to the judge, consulting with a law clerk during proceedings is entirely proper, and the passing of notes between a judge and a law clerk is not an “improper appearance of impropriety.”
The order also extends to references to Engoron’s staff, as he wrote, “Since the commencement of this bench trial, my chambers have been inundated with hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters, and packages. The First Amendment right of defendants and their attorneys to comment on my staff is far and away outweighed by the need to protect them from threats and physical harm.”
This development comes after Engoron had previously restrained Trump from publicly mentioning Greenfield and fined him twice for $5,000 and $10,000 for violating the order.