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Report: Trump Civil Fraud Judge Engoron Under Ethics Investigation

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Arthur Engoron, the judge who oversaw former President Donald Trump’s monumental civil fraud trial, may be in hot water himself after speaking to an attorney about the case before his ruling without following established rules for the court.

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct is investigating an alleged interaction between a New York real estate lawyer and the judge who issued a $454 million judgment against Trump, according to NBC New York.

The outlet reported that real estate lawyer Adam Leitman Bailey acknowledged having a conversation with Judge Arthur Engoron a few weeks before the judge was set to make a decision. Democratic Attorney General Letitia James of New York filed suit in September 2022, in which she accused Trump of exaggerating the value of his real estate holdings to secure loans.

“Bailey claimed in a television interview that he approached Engoron to share his perspective on a key legal issue related to the trial. He insisted that he intended to help the judge understand the greater implications of the harsh ruling against Trump, particularly for New York’s economy. However, such conversations are prohibited under New York’s judicial conduct rules unless all parties are notified and given a chance to respond,” the report said.

“I actually had the ability to speak to him three weeks ago,” Bailey said in the Feb. 16 interview, according to NBC New York. “I saw him in the corner [at the courthouse] and I told my client, ‘I need to go.’ And I walked over and we started talking … I wanted him to know what I think and why…I really want him to get it right.”

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The attorney said that he “explained to him” that the fraud statute being used in the case wasn’t meant to be used to destroy a massive company, particularly when there are no victims in the case.

He said he was concerned about how the law was being applied in the case and said that the judgment could negatively affect the economy of New York.

“He had a lot of questions, you know, about certain cases. We went over it,” he said.

“No ex parte conversation concerning this matter occurred between Justice Engoron and Mr. Bailey or any other person. The decision Justice Engoron issued February 16 was his alone, was deeply considered, and was wholly uninfluenced by this individual,” a spokesman for Engoron told NBC New York.

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That said, the New York State Rules of Judicial Conduct says that judges cannot “initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers concerning a pending or impending proceeding,” with few exceptions. An “ex parte communication” is one in which a judge or member of the jury communicates with an outside party without all involved parties present, NBC New York added.

“The Commission on Judicial Conduct is constrained by a strict confidentiality statute and has no comment on this matter,” Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian told the Daily Caller.

In March, a New York appeals court judge lowered the bond Trump was required to pay to appeal the ruling. Previously, on September 26, Judge Engoron found Trump liable for fraud and ordered the rescission of several of Trump’s business licenses. However, an appeals court stayed the ruling on October 6.

In April, reports said that Trump will challenge Engoron’s definition of fraud that led to the massive civil fraud judgment.

Chris Kise, Trump’s principal lawyer in the case, told Newsweek that it “will depend on many factors so it’s hard to say at the moment, but in any event, it will fall within the 30-day clock” that is allowed by the court.

Kise accused New York Attorney General Letitia James and Engoron of trying to force Trump out of New York, calling it a sad day for the city.

“The case raises serious legal and constitutional questions regarding ‘fraud’ claims/findings without any actual fraud,” Kise said.

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