Trump Lawyers Call for Mistrial in Civil Fraud Case, Attacking Judge

Lawyers for Donald J. Trump on Wednesday called for a mistrial in the civil fraud case against him in New York, arguing that the judge and his law clerk were politically biased against him.

The long-shot legal effort, filed in New York State Supreme Court, comes after the judge, Arthur F. Engoron, placed separate gag orders on the Republican former president and his lawyers, barring them from commenting on his court staff.

Mr. Trump and his allies have made a habit of attacking the judge and his law clerk, Allison Greenfield, and the former president has twice violated the order, incurring $15,000 in fines. In the filing, Mr. Trump’s lawyers refer to the gag orders as “unconstitutional.”

“The evidence of apparent and actual bias is tangible and overwhelming,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers write. “Such evidence, coupled with an unprecedented departure from standard judicial procedure, has tainted these proceedings and a mistrial is warranted.”

The filing will initially be decided by Justice Engoron, who is expected to reject it. Mr. Trump’s lawyers will likely appeal.

As evidence, Mr. Trump’s lawyers — Alina Habba, Clifford Robert and Christopher M. Kise — noted that Justice Engoron, a Democrat, included articles about the case in a high school alumni newsletter. They also took issue with political donations that Ms. Greenfield had made over the past several years, saying that they violated judicial ethics rules. In fact, Ms. Greenfield, also a Democrat, has been campaigning for a judgeship and the rules allow candidates to make certain donations, such as purchasing tickets to political functions.

In their filing, Mr. Trump’s lawyers attribute Justice Engoron’s decisions about the case, many of which have been unfavorable to them, to political bias. The case, brought by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, a Democrat, accuses Mr. Trump and his company of manipulating annual financial statements to receive favorable treatment from banks and insurers.

In a pretrial ruling, Justice Engoron determined that the statements were fraudulent; the trial will determine any punishments the former president may face.

“Donald Trump is trying to dismiss the truth and the facts, but the numbers and evidence don’t lie,” a spokeswoman for Ms. James said in a statement. “Donald Trump is now being held accountable for the years of fraud he committed.”

The arguments of Mr. Trump’s lawyers echo attacks on the judge and Ms. Greenfield that have been taken up by the former president’s allies in recent weeks. On Friday, Representative Elise Stefanik, a member of the House Republican leadership, filed an ethics complaint attacking Justice Engoron and taking issue with Ms. Greenfield.

In response, Al Baker, the spokesman for the New York court system, said that the judge’s “actions and rulings in this matter are all part of the public record and speak for themselves.”

Robert H. Tembeckjian, the administrator of the state commission on judicial misconduct, noted that matters before the organization were confidential unless a judge was found to have committed misconduct and a decision was issued.

Justice Engoron has justified his gag orders by saying that he is concerned about his staff.

“The threat of, and actual, violence resulting from heated political rhetoric is well-documented,” he wrote this month, adding: “My chambers have been inundated with hundreds of threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters and packages.”

He has also asserted that he has “an unfettered, absolute right to consult with my law clerks anytime, anyplace about any matter.”

Last week, Mr. Kise offered a preview of Wednesday’s filing, asserting in court that Justice Engoron’s rulings showed his political leanings.

“You could try to surmise that that’s because of bias,” the judge responded. “Or, you could understand that I think their objections have been of greater validity than yours.”

Back to top button