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Trump motions to have judge in New York civil fraud case recused

PoliticsTrump motions to have judge in New York civil fraud case recused

Lawyers for former President Trump have filed a new motion in his New York civil fraud case alleging that the judge engaged in “prohibited communications” and should recuse himself. 

In a motion filed with the New York State Supreme Court, Trump’s lawyers accuse Judge Arthur Engoron of engaging in actions “fundamentally incompatible with the responsibilities attendant to donning the black robe and sitting in judgment.”

That action refers to a conversation Engoron allegedly had with New York City real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey “regarding the merits of this case, the permissible scope of the New York State Attorney General’s and this Court’s own authority under Executive Law… and the consequences of this Court’s decision on business in the State.”

“The New York Code of Judicial Conduct exists to ensure that litigants are afforded a fair and impartial trial. Justice Engoron’s communications with Attorney Adam Leitman Bailey regarding the merits of this case, however, directly violate that code and demonstrate that Judge Engoron cannot serve as a fair arbiter. It is clear that Judge Engoron should recuse himself immediately,” Alina Habba, spokesperson for Trump, said in a statement. 

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New York Judge Arthur Engoran

Justice Arthur Engoron presides over the civil fraud trial of the Trump Organization at the New York State Supreme Court in New York City on Nov. 13, 2023. (Erin Schaff/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the filing, Bailey told ABC in an interview that he had tried to advise Engoron weeks before the judge’s decision. 

“Although Mr. Bailey claims that President Trump was not mentioned by name in the conversation, when asked whether ‘it was obvious that [his] input was related to this case,’ Mr. Bailey stated ‘well[,] obviously we weren’t talking about the Mets,’” the filing says. 

Engoron in February found Trump liable for more than $350 million in damages in the civil fraud case brought against him by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

James’ case also targeted Trump’s family and the Trump Organization. Engoron ruled that Trump and defendants were liable for “persistent and repeated fraud,” “falsifying business records,” “issuing false financial statements,” “conspiracy to falsify false financial statements,” “insurance fraud” and “conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.”

The judge criticized Trump’s behavior during the trial, saying that he “rarely responded to the questions asked, and he frequently interjected long, irrelevant speeches on issues far beyond the scope of the trial.”

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New York AG Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference in New York on Sept. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)

According to the ABC report cited in the filing, a spokesperson for the court said: 

“[N]o ex parte conversation concerning this matter occurred between Justice Engoron and Mr. Bailey or any other person. The decision Justice Engoron issued February 16 was his alone, was deeply considered, and was wholly uninfluenced by this individual.”

The filing notes that since those allegations have come to light, “it is reported that the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has launched an investigation into this Court’s conduct” and that “at least a dozen news outlets have reported on both the alleged ex parte communication and the pending investigation.”

“The law is clear that any communication outside of the presence of the parties or their lawyers must be strictly scrutinized,” lawyers for Trump argue in the filing. “The Court is obligated to avoid attempted ex parte communications, and if an ex parte communication does occur, the Court should, at minimum, promptly notify all parties of the communication.”

“The appropriate remedy for the ex parte communication is notification to the parties and recusal,” it states. 

“Here, it is beyond dispute that neither Defendants nor the Attorney General were present during the purported communication with Mr. Bailey. Nor did this Court ever notify either party that the purported communication took place, which would have at least permitted an opportunity for comment on the substance of the conversation, as conveyed by this Court,” the filing states. 

“Worse yet, Mr. Bailey’s account indicates that this Court not only permitted but welcomed such prohibited communication. According to Mr. Bailey, this Court was an active participant in a conversation concerning the merits of the case, wherein this Court asked Mr. Bailey a ‘lot of questions.'” 

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Donald Trump arrives to Trump Tower after being found guilty

Former President Trump arrives at Trump Tower in New York on May 30 after being found guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. (Felipe Ramales for Fox News Digital)

Bailey did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

Notably, Bailey years ago successfully sued then-real estate mogul Trump over a condo dispute. 

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“For the foregoing reasons, Defendants respectfully request that this Court recuse itself, or, in the alternative, set the matter down for an evidentiary hearing, and grant any such other and further relief it may think proper,” the filing concludes. 

Fox News Digital’s Bradford Betz and Brooke Singman contributed to this report. 

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