New York’s top court declines to hear Trump’s gag order appeal 

Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 30, 2024. ( Seth Wenig / POOL / AFP)
Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 30, 2024. ( Seth Wenig / POOL / AFP)

By Jack Phillips 
Contributing Writer 

The top court in New York state on Tuesday declined to hear former President Donald Trump’s appeal of a gag order relating to his falsification of business records case. 

In a decision list, the New York Court of Appeals wrote that Trump’s appeal of Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order was “dismissed without costs” and added that “no substantial constitutional question is directly involved.” The court’s chief judge, Rowan D. Wilson, and Judge Caitlin J. Halligan did not partake in the decision. 

As a result, the gag order will remain in effect for Trump, meaning he still cannot make public comments on certain individuals connected to the case. Merchan has not signaled when he will lift it. 

Merchan issued a gag order earlier this year against the former president, prohibiting him from speaking publicly about witnesses, jurors, court staff and others who are connected to the case, although he allowed Trump to criticize both the judge and District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the case. Later, the judge expanded his order to include members of his own family. 

During the trial, which ultimately resulted in Trump being found guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records, Merchan fined the former president $10,000 for what he said were violations of the gag order. He also warned the former president that he might have to jail him if he continued to do so. 

On multiple occasions, Trump and his attorneys had asked Merchan and other courts in New York to terminate the gag order, arguing that it violated his constitutional right to free speech as the leading Republican presidential candidate. In their appeal to the state Court of Appeals, the Trump attorneys argued that Merchan’s order “restricts President Trump’s core political speech on matters of central importance” during the 2024 campaign. 

“It violates the fundamental right of every American voter to hear from the leading candidate for president on matters of enormous public importance,” his attorneys wrote to the court. 

Attorneys for Bragg’s office countered their arguments by urging the Court of Appeals to dismiss the former president’s appeal because he had made what they described as threatening and inflammatory comments about individuals connected to the trial. 

A lower court in New York state similarly rejected Trump’s gag order appeal in mid-May, finding that Merchan “properly determined that” the former president’s statements “posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses in this case.” 

The judge “properly weighed petitioner’s First Amendment rights against the court’s historical commitment to ensuring the fair administration of justice in criminal cases, and the right of persons related or tangentially related to the criminal proceedings from being free from threats, intimidation, harassment and harm,” the ruling added. 

After the trial ended, prosecutors wrote to Merchan that his gag order should remain in effect because the court “has an obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings and the fair administration of justice at least through the sentencing hearing and the resolution of any post-trial motions.” 

Trump attorney Todd Blance wrote in a letter to the judge that because the trial is over, “concerns articulated by the government and the court do not justify continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights of President Trump — who remains the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election — and the American people.” 

“The defense does not concede that there was ever a valid basis for the gag order and reserves the right to challenge the irreparable First Amendment harms caused by the order,” Blanche added in a note. 

After a jury found the former president guilty on May 31, the judge set his sentencing date for July 11, four days from the start of the Republican National Convention that will likely see Trump nominated by Republicans for the 2024 general election. 

In a post-trial news conference, Bragg did not say whether his office would seek a prison term for the former president. There has been rampant speculation from prominent legal analysts that the judge will either not hand down a prison term or will issue a delayed sentence. 

Trump, who had pleaded not guilty to the charges, said that he would appeal the conviction. He has also called on the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene before the sentencing date. 

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