Trump wants NY judge to recuse himself over alleged improper interaction with outside attorney about civil fraud case

 June 29, 2024

Former President Donald Trump has, once again, called for the recusal of New York Judge Arthur Engoron, who continues to preside over his civil fraud case from earlier in the year.

Rather predictably, New York Attorney General Letitia James has now weighed in on the matter saying there is no need for Engoron to recuse himself and that he should remain on the case, WNBC reported.

At issue here is the admission last month from local real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey that he and Engoron discussed the laws at play in the civil fraud case prior to the verdict being issued -- an alleged conversation that some believe violated the state's rules on judicial conduct and has reportedly spurred an investigation.

Engoron should recuse over alleged interaction with outside attorney about case

Axios reported last week that Trump's legal team filed a motion that called for Judge Engoron's recusal in response to the allegation of him "engaging in prohibited communications" with the real estate attorney that, at the very least, should have been disclosed to all involved parties but was not.

"It is beyond dispute that neither Defendants nor the Attorney General were present during the purported communication with Mr. Bailey," Trump's motion stated. "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."

"Worse yet, Mr. Bailey's account indicates that this Court not only permitted but welcomed such prohibited communication," the filing continued, and further noted that Bailey, who previously sued Trump in 2010 over similar claims of fraudulently exaggerated property values, was not a "disinterested expert" on the law but rather had a "vested interest" in the ultimate outcome of the case.

Short of Engoron's recusal, Trump's attorneys urged him to at the very least hold an expedited evidentiary hearing on the matter.

AG James dismissive of Trump's recusal request

WNBC reported that AG James' motion in opposition to Trump's recusal request for Judge Engoron said the allegation of impropriety "amounts to a hill of beans" and that there was "no evidence" that anything improper had occurred -- regardless of the fact that Bailey himself twice admitted in live interviews that he spoke with the judge about the case while the trial was ongoing.

James' filing said there were no indications that Engoron relied on anything that Bailey might have said to him, and stated, "At most, Bailey’s hallway encounter with the Court amounted to an abstract, wholly unprompted commentary about New York’s business fraud statute."

The outlet noted that Trump's motion cited reports of an investigation launched by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct into the alleged interaction between the judge and the outside attorney about the case, but James countered that "the mere pendency of an investigation would provide no basis to infer any appearance of impropriety."

She further asserted that the multiple media reports that stemmed from Bailey's claimed interaction with Engoron was irrelevant to the issue of recusal and that "the determination of whether there exists an appearance of impropriety lies solely with the 'personal conscience of the court,'" or in other words, Engoron himself, who is at the center of the alleged impropriety.

Bailey resistant to Trump's subpoena for information about alleged interaction

Complicating the matter further, according to Law & Crime, is the fact that Bailey has been resistant to efforts by Trump's attorneys to subpoena him for records and testimony about the alleged interaction with Judge Engoron that he admitted to on-air on at least two occasions.

Bailey and his own attorneys have moved to quash the subpoena from Trump's team as an overly broad "fishing expedition" in search of "unknown documents that may or may not exist, concerning information which, by Defendants’ own statement of interest, is NOT related to" the alleged interaction with the judge.

"Defendants’ admission is clear confirmation that Defendants’ Subpoena seeks to probe for communications, which may or may not exist, but, which if they do exist, have no relationship to the Action or to Defendants’ motion of recusal," Bailey's motion stated. "The intended improper nature of Defendants’ demand could not be more apparent."

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