OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A legal expert and former House Judiciary Committee counsel warned New York Judge Arthur Engoron to watch the language he is using as he presides over former President Donald Trump’s $250 million civil fraud trial.
In a column for MSNBC.com, Michael Conway cited the trial of the so-called “Chicago 7″ to begin, reminding “Engoron that the defendants in the notorious case went out of their way to antagonize Judge Julius Hoffman, which seems to be Donald Trump’s strategy in a case where Engoron has already found evidence of fraud,” Raw Story noted.
Conway then pointed out that Engoron often sparred with Trump’s legal team as well as the former president himself when he testified, adding the intemperate language will no doubt be referenced in an inevitable appeal.
“In New York, Engoron has used strident language in rejecting Trump’s legal positions, terming them ‘pure sophistry,’ ‘risible,’ ‘bogus arguments’ and ‘egregious’ in his summary judgment opinion. He sanctioned five Trump attorneys $7,500 each for the ‘borderline frivolous’ arguments in their briefs,” Conway wrote
He then advised: “Harsh language isn’t a problem if it’s justified. But the more Engoron pushes the envelope, the more he risks an appellate court disagreeing with his assessment. And Trump’s lawyers can and will argue the judge’s rhetoric is evidence of judicial bias.”
Conway went on to add that “there are other examples of Engoron seemingly overreacting in response to relentless complaining from Trump’s lawyers” before noting: “He needs to take all necessary steps to ensure that a New York appellate court cannot overturn his decision. And that means not reacting to Trump’s hate-filled speech, or to his lawyers’ baiting and provocation. It’s simply not worth it.”
On Friday, Engoron used similar language when he ruled against a motion for mistrial filed by Trump’s team, which, in part, cited the judge’s hostile demeanor in court.
Engoron denied the request after Trump’s attorneys argued the judge and his chief law clerk showed an “appearance of bias” against the former president.
In denying the motion, Engoron said that it was “utterly without merit” and would be “futile” to proceed to a full briefing schedule even though state prosecutors “advocated for” it, The Epoch Times reported.
Engoron defended his actions as well as those of his chief law clerk, Allison Greenfield, who had come under scrutiny by the former president over past donations to Democratic candidates.
The Epoch Times reported:
The motion seeking a mistrial pointed to a high school newsletter, at which Judge Engoron, in his capacity as a Wheatley School alumnus, works as an editor. The newsletter has publicly posted links in the “newsletter he maintains to articles disparaging parties and counsel.”
The judge denied that this was evidence of bias, stating that his duties with the newsletter don’t affect “my presiding fairly, impartially, and professionally” over the current case.
The newsletter, which began publishing after Judge Engoron established the Wheatley School Alumni Association in 2007, made headlines earlier this month when several prominent conservative social media users posted photos to the newsletter that appear to show the judge shirtless while working out.
“When an online publication mentions a graduate, including myself, I include an excerpt and/or a link, usually both,” Engoron noted in his ruling. “Consequently, I have been the subject of entries concerning this case due to its undeniable newsworthiness.”
“However, I neither wrote nor contributed to any of the articles on which defendants focus, and no reasonable reader could possibly think otherwise,” he added.
As for Greenfield, the defense attorneys’ motion referenced her “partisan political contributions” to candidates and organizations that oppose Trump, which they claimed were “in excess of strict limits” of $500 per year.
He also dismissed any suggestion that her presence at political events “sponsored by certain organizations” implied that all positions of and actions taken by those organizations “should be imputed to her, and by proxy, to me.”
Trump’s attorneys also noted Greenfield’s “unprecedented role” in the trial, arguing that Engoron often “pauses to consult with her on the bench” before he “rules on most issues.” He also “receives from her contemporaneous written notes.” That led them to argue she appears to be “co-judging” the trial.