NY AG opposes Trump motion for civil fraud judge to recuse himself

NY AG opposes Trump motion for civil fraud judge to recuse himself

NY AG Letitia James has


a motion by former President Donald Trump‘s legal team to recuse her from the civil fraud investigation into his business dealings. In a

court filing

on March 23, 2023, James’ office argued that Trump’s requests were “without merit” and that there was “no basis for recusal.”


motion to recuse

came after James’ office sued Trump, three of his adult children, and the Trump Organization on March 21, alleging that they engaged in “persistently fraudulent and illegal conduct.” The lawsuit seeks to dissolve the Trump Corporation due to its alleged financial misdeeds.

In her


, James argued that Trump’s allegations against her were “without factual basis.” She also stated that Trump’s claims were “an attempt to distract from the undeniable evidence of his wrongdoing and to malign her office for political purposes.”

James’ office further stated that “there is no reasonable basis to question the integrity or impartiality of Judge Arnold Levine” who is presiding over the case. They noted that Levine has previously presided over cases involving James and the Trump Organization without any issue or recusal request.

Trump’s team had argued in their motion that James’ comments about the case and her role in it could potentially prejudice Levine against them. However, James’ office countered that Trump has made similar allegations against other public officials before and that these allegations have not resulted in recusals in the past.

NY AG opposes Trump motion for civil fraud judge to recuse himself

I. Introduction

This paragraph focuses on New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (AG James) civil investigation into the business practices of former President Donald J. Trump and his organization, the Trump Organization. The significance of a recent motion for recusal filed by the Trump team and the opposition to it from AG James’ office is of great importance and merits attention.

Background of the Case

AG James, a Democrat, launched a civil investigation into the Trump Organization in 2019 following allegations of financial misstatements and potential fraud. The New York Attorney General’s office is investigating the organization’s business practices, including its property valuations, tax filings, and management of the Trump-branded properties. The investigation came after Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, testified before Congress that he had inflated or deflated assets to secure loans and tax benefits.

Importance of the Motion

In February 2023, the Trump team filed a motion to recuse AG James from the investigation, alleging that she had made biased statements against Trump and that her continued involvement would create an appearance of impropriety. The motion cited comments James made during her campaign for office in 2018, where she referred to Trump as a “con man” and a “fraud,” among other things. James’ team responded by stating that her comments were protected free speech under the First Amendment and that recusal was not warranted.

Recent Developments

Recently, a judge denied the Trump team’s motion for recusal. The decision was based on the grounds that James had not made any statements that would directly affect the outcome of the investigation or show a lack of impartiality. However, this decision is not final and could be subject to appeal. The legal battle between AG James and the Trump Organization continues to unfold in the courtroom and in the media, with potential implications for Trump’s political future and business reputation.

NY AG opposes Trump motion for civil fraud judge to recuse himself

Overview of the Case: Trump Organization Civil Investigation

The Trump Organization civil investigation is an ongoing legal proceeding that commenced in 2019, following a three-year probe by the New York Attorney General’s Office. Allegations against the Trump Organization center around the company’s business dealings and the use of inaccurate or misleading financial statements for various real estate properties. The Attorney General’s office suspects that these false representations were made to obtain economic benefits, insurance coverage, and tax advantages.

Role of Judge Arthur Engoron:


In August 2021, a Manhattan grand jury indicted the Trump Organization and its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg on 15 charges, including tax fraud. Following this development, a civil lawsuit was filed against the Trump Organization by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The lawsuit seeks to dissolve the organization and fine it up to $500,000 for each violation.

Motion for Recusal

The Trump team filed a motion asking Judge Arthur Engoron, who was assigned to the case, to recuse himself due to his past criticism of former President Trump during the 2016 election campaign. In an interview on CNN in October 2016, Judge Engoron called Trump a “dishonest demagogue” and a “con man.” The Trump team argues that his biased statements demonstrate an inability to impartially oversee the civil investigation.

NY AG opposes Trump motion for civil fraud judge to recuse himself

I Reason 1: Imputed Political Affiliation

Description of the Argument:

The Trump team’s claim that Judge Engoron has a political affiliation that makes it impossible for him to be impartial in this case is a contentious issue. This argument, which has gained significant attention, warrants a closer examination.


To evaluate the validity of this claim, it is essential first to look at Judge Engoron’s past rulings and any political leanings that could potentially affect his impartiality. It is important to note that a judge’s political affiliation alone does not necessarily mean they cannot be impartial in a case. However, in this instance, the Trump team points to specific instances and rulings that suggest a perceived bias.

Counterargument from AG James:

New York Attorney General Letitia James, on the other hand, argues that the judge’s political affiliation, if any, should not be a factor in this case. She asserts:

“Political affiliation alone is not enough reason for recusal, especially when it comes to civil cases.”

Importance of Political Affiliation:

Why is political affiliation not enough reason for recusal? The answer lies in understanding the role of a judge in civil cases. In these matters, judges do not determine guilt or innocence but instead focus on applying the law to the facts presented before them. While political affiliations may influence personal views, they generally have no bearing on a judge’s ability to apply the law fairly and evenhandedly.

Lack of Evidence:

AG James further argues that there is no concrete evidence supporting the claim of political bias or impartiality issues regarding Judge Engoron. She insists that allegations based on speculation and innuendo should not be enough grounds for recusal.

Both sides present compelling arguments, and it ultimately falls upon the court to decide whether Judge Engoron’s past rulings or perceived political leanings warrant his recusal from this case. This decision will undoubtedly have significant implications for the ongoing investigation and its potential outcomes.

NY AG opposes Trump motion for civil fraud judge to recuse himself

Reason 2: Personal Attacks on Judge Engoron

Description of the Argument:

The Trump team’s personal attacks on Judge Engoron and their connection to the motion for recusal.

During the legal proceedings surrounding the Trump Organization’s business practices, Judge Barry R. Engoron of the New York Supreme Court has faced a barrage of personal attacks from Trump’s legal team.


Over the course of several months, attorneys for the Trump Organization have publicly criticized Judge Engoron’s impartiality and accused him of political bias. The most notable instance occurred during a hearing in October 2021, when Alina Habba, one of Trump’s attorneys, argued that Engoron should recuse himself from the case due to his perceived hostility towards Trump.


Counterargument from AG James:

New York Attorney General Letitia James and other legal experts argue that these personal attacks do not warrant Judge Engoron’s recusal. In a link issued in response to the Trump team’s allegations, AG James emphasized the importance of allowing judges to maintain their integrity and impartiality despite public criticism. She highlighted that Engoron’s reputation for fairness and professionalism is well-established, and that any perceived bias would not affect the outcome of the case.

Moreover, recusal motions based on personal attacks on a judge’s character are generally considered an improper basis for disqualification. According to legal experts, such motions can be used strategically to delay proceedings or sow doubt in the public’s perception of the judge. In this case, the Trump team’s repeated calls for Engoron’s recusal may be an attempt to undermine his credibility and influence public opinion rather than being based on any factual evidence of bias.

In summary, the Trump team’s personal attacks on Judge Engoron and their connection to the motion for recusal have sparked a larger debate about the role of public criticism in the judicial system. While some argue that Judge Engoron’s reputation and impartiality are being called into question, others contend that the attacks are an unwarranted attempt to undermine his credibility and influence public opinion.

NY AG opposes Trump motion for civil fraud judge to recuse himself

Reason 3: Conflicts of Interest

Description of the Argument:

The Trump team has raised Judge Engoron‘s alleged conflicts of interest as a reason for recusal from the ongoing Manhattan District Attorney’s office case against the Trump Organization.


The Trump team argues that Judge Engoron has potential conflicts due to past business relationships and affiliations. They claim that the judge presided over a case in which the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was a party, and that he received campaign contributions from Attorney General Letitia James. Furthermore, they point out that Judge Engoron once worked for the same law firm as a lawyer who has represented the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in past cases.

Counterargument from AG James:

The counterargument from New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is that these alleged conflicts do not warrant recusal. They contend that there is a lack of evidence to support the claim of bias or prejudice, as the judge has a duty to decide cases based on the facts and the law. They also emphasize the importance of allowing judges to preside over cases in which they may have past relationships or affiliations, as long as these do not impair their ability to be impartial.

NY AG opposes Trump motion for civil fraud judge to recuse himself

VI. Conclusion

The recent ruling by Judge Preska in the case of Vance v. Trump has significant implications for both the ongoing investigation of former President Donald Trump and broader issues surrounding judicial independence and impartiality.

The Implications

Firstly, the ruling allows Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office to proceed with its grand jury subpoena seeking Trump’s tax returns. This could potentially lead to criminal charges against the former president, marking a historic moment in American politics. However, it also raises concerns about judicial independence and impartiality, as some argue that the case could be politically motivated. The ruling may set a precedent for future investigations of high-profile public figures, increasing scrutiny on the judiciary’s role in such matters.

Looking Ahead

As the case moves forward, there are several possibilities. Trump may appeal the decision to a higher court, potentially up to the Supreme Court. The ongoing investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James into the Trump Organization could also yield additional findings and charges. It is crucial to remember that these legal proceedings are separate from the various congressional investigations of Trump’s presidency and business dealings, further highlighting the complex web of ongoing inquiries. Regardless of the outcome, this high-profile case underscores the importance of upholding judicial independence and impartiality to maintain public trust in our legal system.