By Jack Phillips
A New York appeals court judge halted the scheduled Oct. 2 trial in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ fraud lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, a spokesman for the court confirmed Thursday.
State Justice David Friedman, with the 1st Department of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, granted an interim stay of the trial—slated to start Oct. 2—and referred the matter to a five-judge panel, which expects to rule in the last week of September, a spokesperson said. He also ordered the full appeals court to consider a reported lawsuit that President Trump had filed against the trial judge, Arthur Engoron, on an expedited basis.
President Trump’s lawyers had raised issue with Judge Engoron’s refusal to grant a request for a three-week trial delay, which he said (pdf) was “completely without merit.” They also asked the judge to pause the trial until he issues a ruling on the statute of limitations regarding certain claims in Ms. James’s lawsuit, it was reported.
First reported by the Daily Beast, the lawsuit against Judge Engoron also asserted that the jurist is overstepping his authority. A state appellate court issued a ruling several months ago that asked the judge to determine which Trump Organization real estate deals are too old and beyond the statue of limitations.
The judge declined to issue a comment on the matter via a court spokesperson. Meanwhile, Ms. James’ office issued a statement on Thursday ruling, telling multiple news organizations that “we are confident in our case and will be ready for trial.”
The lawsuit filed by Ms. James, a Democrat, alleges President Trump defrauded banks, insurers, and others with annual financial statements that inflated the value of his skyscrapers, golf courses, and other assets and boosted his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion. Her lawsuit seeks $250 million in penalties and a ban on the former president doing business in New York.
The front-runner for the Republican nomination in next year’s presidential election, President Trump has denied wrongdoing. He’s noted that Ms. James pledged to go after him while she was campaigning for attorney general.
In sworn testimony given for the lawsuit in April, the former commander-in-chief said he didn’t think his financial statements would be taken seriously because they have a disclaimer that says they shouldn’t be trusted. He told Ms. James: “You don’t have a case and you should drop this case.”
“Do you know the banks were fully paid? Do you know the banks made a lot of money?” President Trump testified. “Do you know I don’t believe I ever got even a default notice, and even during COVID, the banks were all paid? And yet you’re suing on behalf of banks, I guess. It’s crazy. The whole case is crazy.”
Several weeks ago, meanwhile, the New York Attorney General’s office indicated in court papers (pdf) that the “case is ready for trial,” adding that “there has been a reasonable opportunity to complete the foregoing proceedings” as well as “no outstanding requests for discovery” in the case.
In a separate case, President Trump’s attorneys earlier this week requested in a court filing that Judge Tanya Chutkan recuse herself, claiming that she made biased statements against their client during the sentencings for multiple Jan. 6 defendants. An Obama appointee, Judge Chutkan is overseeing the federal election subversion case brought against the former president brought by special counsel Jack Smith.
“Judge Chutkan has, in connection with other cases, suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,” his filing stated. “Such statements, made before this case began and without due process, are inherently disqualifying.”
Making note of her comments in the sentencing of Jan. 6 protester Christine Priola, who received 15 months in prison, the former president’s team wrote that Judge Chutkan told the court that Jan. 6 “was nothing less than an attempt to violently overthrow the government, the legally, lawfully, peacefully elected government by individuals who were mad that their guy lost.”
“I see the videotapes,” she said, according to President Trump’s motion. “I see the footage of the flags and the signs that people were carrying and the hats they were wearing and the garb.”
So far, Judge Chutkan has not made any comment or ruling after the court papers were filed. Mr. Smith’s team of attorneys responded by saying that President Trump has “failed to identify anything approaching the clear and convincing evidence necessary to overcome the presumption of impartiality.”
In the New York case, Judge Engoron is still scheduled to hold a hearing next week in which he will rule on recent requests by President Trump and Ms. James. Her lawsuit is seeking $250 million in damages from Trump Organization, which the former president runs with his children.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report.