NEW YORK — Donald Trump has assailed a judge and clerk handling his New York fraud trial as a gag order banning him from criticising court personnel was paused.
The ex-president sued the judge in the civil case, Arthur Engoron, after he barred him and his attorneys from speaking about judicial staff.
Trump’s lawyers had argued the gag order was unconstitutional.
A state intermediate appeals court has granted what is known as an interim stay.
Judge David Friedman cited the “constitutional and statutory rights at issue” in Thursday’s ruling.
It means that, for now, Trump and his lawyers can once again make public comments about the court officials.
The former president wasted little time in reopening attacks on Judge Engoron, calling his actions “Radical and Unprecedented”.
“His Ridiculous and Unconstitutional Gag Order, not allowing me to defend myself against him and his politically biased and out of control, Trump Hating Clerk, who is sinking him and his Court to new levels of LOW, is a disgrace,” the 77-year-old wrote in a lengthy post on social media.
Trump’s lawyer Christopher Kise also welcomed the ruling, which he said would restore his client’s right “to talk about bias in his own trial”.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued Trump, his sons, the Trump Organization and its top executives for alleged business fraud. Should they lose, the Trumps face $250m (£201m) in fines and the possible dissolution of their New York real estate empire.
The civil trial began last month in Lower Manhattan. Early on, Judge Engoron placed Trump under a limited gag order, after his clerk was attacked by the former president on social media.
The judge has fined Trump $15,000 for two violations of the order.
On 25 October, Judge Engoron unexpectedly forced Trump to take the stand, after he publicly criticised “a person who is very partisan sitting alongside” the judge.
Judge Engoron perceived that comment to refer to his clerk, who sits to his right.
Trump stated under oath that he was talking about that day’s witness, Michael Cohen, but the judge said he did not find this credible and imposed a fine.
Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly told Judge Engoron they believe his clerk is displaying bias, and claim that she is passing notes or rolling her eyes.
In the New York Supreme Court system, clerks play a role in the proceedings and often quietly confer with the judge.
Trump’s lawyers filed for a mistrial this week, arguing Judge Engoron is biased.
Separately, Trump’s gag order in a criminal case in Washington DC has also been temporarily lifted.
That case, brought by the US Department of Justice, focuses on his alleged attempts to subvert the 2020 election results. — BBC