Trump judge may have violated major legal norm in civil fraud case

 May 10, 2024

A prominent New York real estate lawyer says that he advised the judge in Donald Trump's civil fraud case to "get it right" before he handed down his ruling. 

Arthur Engoron may have violated a major norm in the legal world against "ex parte" communications, which refers to discussions involving a judge without all parties being present.

Lawyer Adam Leitman Bailey told NBC News that he shared concerns with the outcome of the case to Engoron three weeks before the ruling.

Engoron maintains his February decision was "wholly uninfluenced", but a judicial oversight body has opened a probe into the matter.

Trump judge caught...

The judge issued a staggering $454 million judgment against Trump after finding that Trump and his business, the Trump Organization, falsely inflated assets.

Trump and his defenders have said Engoron's ruling - which came despite the fact that there were no victims - could have a chilling effect on business in New York.

Bailey, who said he does not support Trump, expressed some of the same concerns to Engoron when he saw him in court. Bailey said he "explained" that the fraud statute in the case was not meant to apply to a major company like the Trump Organization.

"I wanted him to know what I think and why…I really want him to get it right," he said.

Judge goes silent

In a follow-up interview, Bailey told NBC News that Trump's name was not mentioned during his discussion with the judge, but "obviously we weren't talking about the Mets."

Bailey said he has no connection to Trump's legal cases, and that he knows Engoron from appearing before him hundreds of times.

A spokesman for the court said that Engoron's decision "was his alone, was deeply considered, and was wholly uninfluenced by this individual."

Neither Bailey nor the court have responded to additional inquiries from NBC News since February, the outlet said.

A pattern....

The New York State Rules of Judicial Conduct state that "a judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers."

Trump defense lawyer Christopher Kise isn't letting this one go.

"The code doesn’t provide an exception for 'well, this was a small conversation' or 'well, it didn’t really impact me' or 'well, this wasn’t something that I, the judge, found significant," Kise said. "No. The code is very clear."

Engoron's case has been overshadowed in recent weeks by Trump's criminal "hush money" trial, which is also being held in New York.

The judge in the case, Juan Merchan, has faced his own questions for donating to Joe Biden in 2020, in violation of the state's legal rules. However, the judge has declined to step aside.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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