On Wednesday, June 26, 2024, NBC New York reported that New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion calling for Judge Arthur Engoron to remain as the presiding judge in the civil fraud case against former President Donald Trump. This came in response to Trump’s lawyers filing a motion last week demanding Judge Engoron recuse himself from the case.

According to the Attorney General’s motion, Trump’s recusal request stems from controversial real estate lawyer Adam Leitman Bailey speaking to reporters about allegedly discussing the case with Judge Engoron in a courthouse hallway three weeks before the judge issued a $454 million penalty against Trump. However, James argued in the filing that there is no evidence the judge relied on anything Bailey said or that their interaction was anything more than a brief, abstract conversation about New York fraud law in general.

Bailey himself acknowledged to NBC New York that he and the judge did not mention Trump by name during their conversation. Bailey maintained he simply wanted to ensure the judge understood the relevant law properly. However, legal experts noted that judges should avoid ex-parte communications about cases and that such discussions could be inappropriate even if they do not influence a ruling.

Regardless, James argued Bailey’s conversation with the judge did not warrant recusal. She said the judge was right to find after an 11-week trial that Trump and his company engaged in “repeated and persistent fraud.” James also raised doubts about whether the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct was actually investigating the matter, as Trump’s lawyers claimed.

For their part, Trump’s legal team asserted the judge’s alleged discussion with Bailey called his impartiality into question and that his failure to disclose the interaction compromised the proceedings. They pointed to WNBC’s reporting that Bailey had been subpoenaed for his testimony about the interaction.

However, James maintained in her filing that any investigation was irrelevant to determining apparent impropriety and that the decision to recuse lies with the judge alone based on his personal view of the situation. A court spokesperson has declined to provide further details of the alleged conversation beyond saying it did not influence the ruling.

In the coming weeks, Judge Engoron will now have to rule on the recusal motion, which could result in a new judge taking over the case if granted. But for now, James has forcefully argued the judge should preside as the trier who is most familiar with the lengthy trial and complex issues in the high-profile civil fraud case against Trump. Her filing aims to convince the court that Bailey’s conversation does not warrant removing Judge Engoron from his role overseeing additional post-trial matters and enforcement of the penalty.

 

 

Source: NBC New York