Trump Seeks Recusal After "Allegations Surface" Over Judge In $454 Million Case

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Jun 21, 2024 - 05:40 PM

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Attorneys for former President Donald Trump demanded a recusal of a New York civil fraud trial judge over allegations that he discussed the case with a third party.

“Allegations have surfaced revealing this Court may have engaged in actions fundamentally incompatible with the responsibilities attendant to donning the black robe and sitting in judgment,” Trump attorneys Alina Habba and Clifford Robert wrote in a motion on Thursday.

(Left) New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron. (Right) Former President Donald Trump in the courtroom on Oct. 17, 2023. (Dave Sanders/Pool via AP, Seth Wenig/Pool/Getty Images)

In the motion, his attorneys cited public comments made by a real estate lawyer Adam Leitman Bailey to a local NBC affiliate that he had allegedly spoken with Judge Arthur Engoron several weeks before the judge fined the former president $454 million for falsely inflating his and his company’s assets. At the time, a spokesperson for the judge denied anything wrong occurred.

I actually had the ability to speak to him three weeks ago. I saw him in the corner [at the courthouse] and I told my client, ‘I need to go.’ And I walked over and we started talking. … I wanted him to know what I think and why … I really want him to get it right,” Mr. Bailey said in the interview. Later, he said that the ”word Donald Trump” was never mentioned in their conversation.

In his comments to NBC, Mr. Bailey claimed that the judge asked him “a lot of questions” and he “gave him everything I knew.” He added, “He had a lot of questions, you know about certain cases. We went over it.”

The judge has not publicly responded to Mr. Bailey’s specific claims. No witnesses have confirmed the lawyer’s allegations about the conversation.

Meanwhile, a New York State’s Office of Court Administration spokesman denied that the conversation took place about the Trump case, adding that Judge Engoron’s decision was not influenced by any outside forces. The Epoch Times contacted the court administration office for comment last month but received no reply.

“No ex parte conversation concerning this matter occurred between Justice Engoron and Mr. Bailey or any other person,“ court spokesperson Al Baker told multiple news outlets. ”The decision Justice Engoron issued February 16 was his alone, was deeply considered, and was wholly uninfluenced by this individual.”

But attorneys for the former president argued that the alleged conversation with Judge Engoron violated the New York Code of Judicial Conduct because it was not disclosed to the former president’s counsel.

Mr. Bailey has publicly stated that these communications with this court occurred mere weeks prior to issuance of the decision and final judgment in this case,” the Trump attorneys claimed. “The code flatly prohibits such communications.”

The motion also took issue with the court’s statement last month that Judge Engoron wasn’t influenced, saying that it “does nothing to mitigate the perception of impropriety created by the fact of the ex parte communication.”

Ex parte communication is a type of interaction by a judge with people interested in the outcome of a case, including a juror, witness, parties, attorneys, and law enforcement personnel. They are generally prohibited because they can influence the outcome of the case.

“The Code does not carve out an exception for short conversations or communications this Court subjectively or defensively deems insignificant. Rather, the Code seeks to prevent a judge from acting in a way that would undermine the integrity of the proceedings and the judiciary more broadly,” former President Trump’s attorneys added.

The former president has appealed Judge Engoron’s judgment against him, saying that the fine was “in excess of its jurisdiction.” New York Attorney General Letitia James brought the civil lawsuit in 2022, seeking to penalize the Trump Organization and asking the judge to bar the former president from doing business in New York state.

In his decision, Judge Engoron ruled that the “defendants submitted blatantly false financial data” as they attempted to borrow money at better loan rates, which resulted in ”fraudulent financial statements.”

“Indeed, Donald Trump testified that, even today, he does not believe the Trump Organization needed to make any changes based on the facts that came out during this trial,” the judge wrote.

The former president has denied the claims, saying it’s part of a longstanding attempt to imperil his 2024 presidential candidacy and political movement.

The civil fraud case is separate from the criminal case that was brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who secured a conviction of the former president on 34 counts of falsifying business records. Former President Trump pleaded not guilty to those charges and has vowed to appeal.