NEW YORK — A New York appellate court Monday told lawyers for Donald Trump that they missed a deadline to seek permission from a panel of judges to quickly consider a request to file a higher court challenge to a gag order against Trump in connection with a $250 million civil fraud case.
Trump lawyers sought prompt permission from the appellate court to ask the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, to pause a gag order against the former president issued by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the fraud trial.
Trump is scheduled to testify for the defense on Monday and is expected to be the final defense witness called in the fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. He previously testified in the trial when called to do so by state lawyers.
Engoron issued the gag order Oct. 3 to prevent Trump from commenting on court staff after he deemed Trump’s references to a law clerk problematic because they generated an overwhelming number of threats and harassing messages. There has been a barrage of calls to the clerk’s personal cellphone and a flood of alarming messages to her email accounts.
Trump has twice been found in violation of the order and has been fined a total of $15,000.
Trump’s lawyers say he will be irrevocably harmed by the gag order lasting through the end of testimony. His lawyers were barred from publicly discussing the law clerk’s frequent interactions with Engoron, which they have argued is evidence that the clerk, who has been active in local Democratic politics, is biased and too involved in decisions.
“Without expedited review, [Trump and the defense team] will continue to suffer irreparable injury daily, as they are silenced on matters implicating the appearance of bias and impropriety on the bench during a trial of immense stakes,” Trump attorney Clifford Robert argued in a court filing Monday.
During an informal session in the clerk’s office at the appellate court Monday, Robert and Christopher Kise, another of Trump’s lawyers, argued for a single judge to grant permission to advance their appeal, but they were told that was not proper procedure because a full panel must decide the issue.
An attorney for the court, Lauren Holmes, told the lawyers that they missed a Monday morning filing deadline to potentially have a full panel consider the request this week.
James’s office has said the gag order is more than fair as a measure to protect the court staff’s safety and is limited in scope.
Defense lawyers maintain that the gag order is a constitutional rights violation for Trump, who is the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential race.
Engoron has prohibited Trump from speaking about the law clerk and anyone else on his staff, but Trump is free to make disparaging comments about the judge and James, which he often has.
Last week, an appeals court panel reimposed the gag order following a two-week pause after a single judge imposed a temporary stay. During those two weeks, Trump made social media comments about the law clerk, and Trump followers responded with antisemitic and other hateful messages.
Trump also has a gag order in his D.C. federal criminal case for allegedly trying to obstruct the results of the 2020 presidential election. He faces four criminal indictments and the possibility of multiple serious trials next year, as he seeks reelection.
The civil fraud case stems from a lawsuit filed by James against Trump, his two adult sons, two other executives and his namesake business last year, alleging a years-long fraud that involved falsely inflating the values of assets on financial documents to get better terms from lenders and insurance firms.
The Trumps and their lawyers have denied any wrongdoing.