Donald J. Trump hasn't changed. Judges do.
Two weeks ago, a New York judge, Arthur F. Engoron, Mr. Trump was allowed to give closing arguments in person in his civil fraud trial. Mr. Trump bulldozed the restrictions and hit the judge in the face by repeating his familiar claim of a “political witch hunt.”
Then last week, Mr. E. Jean Carroll, a lawyer down the street in a defamation trial. Judge Louis A. Kaplan warned him sternly. , although he has a right to be present, “may lose that right — and lose it if he interferes.”
Ms. Carroll's attorneys found no reason to appeal again.
Judges' different approaches to the storm that swept into their courtrooms — and different decisions — could offer lessons beyond the two New York cases. Mr. They could provide guidance to judges set to oversee Trump's four potential criminal investigations, who want to prevent the 45th president from turning his legal proceedings into political stunts.
“The first thing you have to do is set the rules and enforce them,” said former U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan John S. Martin Jr. said. “If the judge doesn't get tough and back down, I think Trump will back down.”
77 year old Mr. Trump, who finds himself in courtrooms more often these days, alternates those appearances with campaign stops — and uses both for political purposes as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination. On Tuesday, after attending jury selection in Ms. Carroll's trial, she flew to New Hampshire to begin campaigning. He then returned to court on Wednesday to testify before heading back to New Hampshire.
Judges usually face defendants who are powerful public figures such as politicians or chief executives who dominate a room.
But judges, especially those with lifetime tenure on the federal court, don't give up their power easily. Usually, threats of financial sanctions, contempt, or a short prison sentence will quiet the most unruly of courtroom disruptors.
Mr. What makes Trump's appearances challenging is that he may be making a calculation that disobeying a judge, or perhaps even losing a legal case, might be politically advantageous. In Ms. Carroll's defamation trial, Mr. Trump seems to be throwing Judge Kaplan out of the courtroom.
After two recent clashes with judges, Mr. Trump held news conferences before cheering supporters in the lobby of his building at 40 Wall Street. Standing in front of a row of American flags, he reiterated themes of personal persecution. He called state Attorney General Letitia James, who was prosecuting him in a civil fraud case, “a mess” and “a political hack.” A week later, he branded Judge Kaplan a “Trump-hater” and dismissed Ms. Carroll's claims. “I was, obviously, damaged,” he said.
Mr. Both of Trump's Manhattan hearings are still pending. No jury in Ms. James's civil fraud case in New York State Supreme Court; Mr. Judge Engoron's ruling on whether Trump and his company are liable for the $370 million in fines sought by the government is expected later this month.
Ms. Carroll's defamation trial is being heard by a nine-judge jury in federal district court, with Judge Kaplan overseeing the proceedings. The only issue is how much Mr. Trump should pay for Ms. Carroll, 80, who accused him in 2019 of sexually abusing her and for her continued attacks in statements and on social media.
Testimony is expected to continue at least until Monday, with the former president indicating he may testify.
Judge Kaplan, 79, was appointed to the federal bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. He is known for his command of the courtroom and, at times, his patience with unprepared lawyers. He presided over trials involving Sam Bankman-Fried, the tousled-haired cryptocurrency mogul who was convicted in November, and Suleiman Abu Qaid, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and adviser, who was sentenced to life in prison by a judge. In 2014.
The judge also presided last spring in an earlier case brought by Ms. Carroll against Mr. Trump. In that trial, a jury found her liable for sexually abusing her in the 1990s and defaming her in a different report than the one that prompted the current case before Judge Kaplan, and awarded her $5 million in damages.
“This is not his first rodeo,” said Kathryn B. Kaplan, a former colleague of Judge Kaplan on the Manhattan federal bench. Forrest said. “He's going to be very careful and thoughtful in how he handles this situation.”
“I'm sure he's thinking about when he draws the lines, how he draws the lines, what those lines mean and what agenda it plays into,” Ms. Forrest added.
Last May Mr. Judge Kaplan has already ruled against the jury's finding that Trump and his lawyers sexually abused Ms. Carroll or that her statements about her were defamatory.
But Mr. Michael P., who served nearly two decades as a Manhattan federal judge, said the trial could continue if Trump again obstructs or is removed from the courtroom. Mukesh said. Mr. Justice Kaplan has an obligation to ensure that the jury is not prejudiced by any extraneous matter. Mukase said.
“He wants to make sure they understand that Trump's antics or their consequences are not evidence,” Mr. Mukase said. law.”
In the state court, Justice Nkoron, 74, has long experience. A former cabdriver and aspiring musician, he often jokes from the bench and maintains a rapport with lawyers and witnesses.
He was a character outside the courtroom as well – he once was Submitted a story to the New York Times The singer approached Art Garfunkel and informed him that “my name's art, too” — and was later mocked by a friend.
But Mr. Trump and his lawyers appeared to test Judge Ngoron's good humor as the judge sought to determine whether the former president was responsible for violating state laws by inflating his net worth, Ms. James, the attorney general, argued.
Mr. One of Trump's lawyers, Christopher M. When Kiss said he wanted the former president to speak during closing arguments this month, Judge Engoron said Mr. Stick to facts and law.
The former president did not agree to this. In open court, Mr. Judge Engoron sighed as Kiss renewed his request. “This is not how it should have been done,” he said.
However, he allowed Mr Trump to speak and the former president used his five minutes to attack Ms James and the judge.
However, a condition set by Judge Engoron appeared to be effective: If he assaulted the judge's staff — a nonsensical violation of the order — he would be removed from the court and fined at least $50,000, he said.
Mr. During his conversation, Trump avoided attacking any staffers.
Kate Kristobek And Olivia Bensimon Contributed report. Kirsten Noyes Research contributed.