For the second time, a New York appeals court panel upheld the gag order preventing Donald Trump from commenting about the court staff in his civil fraud trial, ruling on December 14 that Trump’s lawyers filed under the wrong legal mechanism, the Associated Press reported.
The 4-judge panel ruled that Trump’s legal team erred by filing a lawsuit against Judge Arthur Engoron under a New York state law called Article 78, which permits lawsuits against certain court decisions.
The judges wrote in their decision that Trump’s lawyers should have followed the standard appeals process by first asking Engoron to reverse the order and then, only if denied, appealing the decision in a higher court.
Trump’s attorney in the case, Christopher Kise, said the defense filed the petition the way it did because in this context, “the ordinary appellate process” was “pointless” since it wouldn’t be “completed in time to reverse the ongoing harm.”
However, the 4-panel appellate court ruled that Judge Engoron’s gag order could not be challenged under Article 78, citing a previous state Supreme Court ruling that characterized Article 78 lawsuits as an “extraordinary remedy.”
The judges wrote that “the gravity of potential harm” in this case was small, given the narrow scope of the gag order that was limited only to “statements regarding the court’s staff.”
Engoron initially imposed the gag order on October 3 after Trump attacked the judge’s clerk Allison Greenfield in social media posts.
The gag order was suspended on November 16 by appeals court Judge David Friedman, citing free speech concerns, but was reinstated on November 30 by a 4-panel appeals court.
The appeals court’s decision came just one day after testimony concluded in the civil fraud trial that began in early October. Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for January 11 with Judge Engoron hoping to reach a verdict by the end of the month.