Donald Trump’s lawyers on Wednesday urged a New York judge to declare a mistrial in a civil fraud case over his family real estate company’s business practices, but the former U.S. president faces long odds of getting a new trial.
Lawyers for Trump and his family company argued in court filings that the conduct of Justice Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the case, and his law clerk showed they were biased against the defendants.
Trump’s lawyers said Engoron had posted links to news articles “disparaging” Trump and others to a newsletter for alumni of a school he attended, and had improperly given his law clerk – who sits beside him during the trial’s proceedings – too much latitude to participate in the case.
“Given the demonstrable partisan bias present on the bench at trial, the only way to maintain public confidence in a truly independent and impartial judiciary and the rule of law is to bring these proceedings to an immediate halt,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
In a statement responding to the motion, a spokesperson for New York Attorney General Letitia James said Trump was trying to distract from his “fraud.”
A spokesman for the New York State court system did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The motion came after Engoron imposed a gag order on Oct. 3 after Trump shared on social media a photo of the judge’s principal law clerk posing with U.S. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and falsely called her Schumer’s “girlfriend.”
Engoron later expanded the gag order on Nov. 4 to cover lawyers as well after a member of Trump’s legal team, Christopher Kise, objected to the clerk passing notes to the judge during the trial.
Trump’s lawyers said in their filing that the gag order “may reasonably be interpreted as an effort to shield” concerns about his law clerk’s role from scrutiny. They called the clerk’s political contributions to Democratic candidates and organizations “impermissible partisan activity.”
The lawsuit over his real estate practices accuses Trump pumping up the value of apartment towers, golf courses and other assets to win better financing terms.
Engoron has already found Trump, his adult sons and 10 of his companies liable for fraud, describing in scathing terms how the defendants made up valuations. Engoron’s ruling could strip Trump’s control of some of his best known properties, though that order is on hold during appeal.
Trump took the stand in the case last week, defending his business practices and calling the case “election interference.”
The case is among the many legal woes facing Trump as he campaigns for the presidency. He has pleaded not guilty to four criminal indictments, including two over charges he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
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