NY’s top judge explains recusal from Trump gag order case. What this means for verdict

The chief judge on New York’s top court said Thursday that technical and ethical reasons militated his recusal from Donald Trump’s appeal of the gag order in his hush money trial.

In a brief aside at a function hosted by the Westchester Legal Aid Society, Chief Judge Rowan Wilson explained that one of the parties in that appeal, Justice Juan Merchan, was represented by the state Office of Court Administration. Because Wilson, as chief judge, oversees that office, he believed it was necessary to recuse himself from the appeal.

Ordinarily, the New York Attorney General’s Office represents judges who are themselves parties to lawsuits in their official capacity, he said.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

“For reasons I don’t know, the Attorney General didn’t represent Justice Merchan, and instead, then, a lawyer within the Office of Court Administration represented him,” Wilson commented. “That didn’t seem appropriate to me to remain on that case.”

It was “entirely my decision,” he said. “This is more of an appearance of impropriety issue.”

Court of Appeals rejected Trump's attempt to appeal gag order automatically

In a summary order Tuesday, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, rejected Trump’s attempt to appeal his gag order automatically. The court, minus Wilson and Judge Caitlin Halligan, determined that there were “no substantial constitutional” issues involved.

Merchan had issued the gag order ahead of Trump’s hush money trial. It prevents Trump from commenting on witnesses, court staff and jurors.

Last month, Trump was convicted of 34 counts of falsifying business records. His sentencing is scheduled for July 11.

Trump may still obtain the top court’s permission to appeal his gag order if two of the court’s seven judges agree his appeal should be heard. But this course of appeal is purely discretionary, and the court accepts only a small fraction of cases under this pathway.

In 2023, the Court of Appeals accepted fewer than 7% of cases under its discretionary authority, according to annual statistics published by the court.

Wilson and Halligan have now both recused themselves from the gag-order appeal, limiting the pool to only five judges who would decide whether to accept it for consideration.

Why are the circumstances of the appeal and the recusal unusual?

The circumstances giving way to Trump’s appeal, and Wilson’s recusal, are themselves unusual. His attorneys pursued a rare pathway where litigants can sue judges directly in order to prevent them from exceeding their judicial authority.

Normally, judges are not named as individual parties in appeals of their decisions.

But the question of Wilson’s recusal is not an academic exercise. It may bear directly on the outcome of Trump’s criminal case.

Wilson is one of the court’s most liberal judges, and he is an outspoken supporter of the rights of criminal defendants.

He was elevated in 2017 to the high court by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and then tapped for the chief judge’s slot by Gov. Kathy Hochul after her first pick, Hector LaSalle, was deemed insufficiently progressive.

In April, Wilson was one of four judges who overturned Harvey Weinstein’s rape and sexual abuse convictions.

That 4-3 ruling was fiercely contested, pitting the court’s more conservative judges against some of its most progressive jurists.

What does this mean for the verdict?

Whether Wilson will have cause to recuse himself when Trump appeals the actual verdict in his case is unclear, given the unusual way his gag-order appeal was brought.

But losing Wilson, a bulwark for criminal defendants and indigent litigants, could be enough to swing the case.

Arguments that are sure to feature in Trump’s appeal — regarding evidence of past misconduct that was allowed to be introduced — were central to the court’s decision to overturn Weinstein’s conviction.

As to whether the Office of Court Administration would have any role in the appeal of Trump’s verdict, Wilson suggested not.

“No OCA (Office of Court Administration) lawyer has been involved in the regular criminal case,” he said. “Absent some other reason that I don’t know about, I would expect that I would participate.”

Asher Stockler is a reporter for The Journal News and the USA Today Network New York. You can send him an email at [email protected]. Reach him securely: [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: NY’s top judge explains recusal from Trump gag order case. What this means for verdict

OTHER NEWS

50 minutes ago

Popular grocery chain closing over 30 stores

50 minutes ago

Man to keep England ‘Euro winners’ tattoo until next tournament in 2028

50 minutes ago

Why a disastrous Copa America should not have you worried about the 2026 World Cup in the U.S.

50 minutes ago

When is the next Copa America tournament?

50 minutes ago

Biden denies using violent anti-Trump rhetoric; widow rejects Biden call: Live updates

50 minutes ago

Bank of England should cut interest rates to help households, says Monetary Policy Committee member

50 minutes ago

iOS 18 public beta live — here's the 9 features you should try right away

50 minutes ago

Government officials raise concerns after new governor rolls back decades of legislation: 'Has chosen to ignore the law'

50 minutes ago

How did Bayern Munich perform at EURO 2024?

50 minutes ago

'We haven't failed': police sift through CFMEU claims

50 minutes ago

Spurs make contact for "unstoppable" 180k-p/w forward Conte wanted to sign

53 minutes ago

Alonso doesn't 'want to get traded,' says he's 'super happy to be a Met'

55 minutes ago

After fans crash Copa America final, security concerns for B.C.’s World Cup games

55 minutes ago

Police and firefighters were called to this Coquitlam shelter over 700 times last year

59 minutes ago

Biden followed Obama’s vilification playbook — now he’s stuck with overheated rhetoric

59 minutes ago

Elon Musk plans to give $45 million a month to pro-Trump super PAC, WSJ reports

1 hour ago

Shannen Doherty spent final weeks enduring ‘hardest time’ she’d ever experienced with cancer

1 hour ago

‘Genius product’ gets you 12 perfumes for £30 – and it's ‘perfect for travel’

1 hour ago

A personal trainer at a longevity clinic says you should care about 3 fitness markers if you want to live a long, youthful life

1 hour ago

B.C. business decries ‘money grab’ to make pandemic patio permanent

1 hour ago

Safety, increased Wi-Fi access among $200M Northern B.C. highway improvements

1 hour ago

Celebrities are getting $2,000 MRI scans to learn about their health. Should you?

1 hour ago

Camera IconRE/Perth Winter Arts Festival: Launch of inaugural winter festival

1 hour ago

Camera IconGrease the musical: Socials gallery from VIP opening night

1 hour ago

Boomers give USA a scare in Olympics warm-up

1 hour ago

Up 80% in a year, why is this ASX 200 stock hitting a record high today?

1 hour ago

Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz to return for ‘Shrek 5’

1 hour ago

At least 300 migrants arrive in Dover after rescue by Border Force

1 hour ago

Pair of Ravens rookie draft picks not physically ready to start training camp

1 hour ago

Messi loses fitness battle at Copa America, puts goal of playing 6th World Cup on hold

1 hour ago

Trump shooting: World leaders condemn attack on former US president

1 hour ago

Households struggling with cost of living as grocery prices rise

1 hour ago

How photographers view the photos of Trump's assassination attempt

1 hour ago

Falcons planning to use Kyle Pitts at these two positions in 2024

1 hour ago

The Real Reason Glen Powell Looks So Different

1 hour ago

A TV Channel Removes This Simpsons Episode After Trump's Attempted Assassination

1 hour ago

The Pulled Commercial Featuring Donald Trump's Assailant

1 hour ago

Ingrid Andress' national anthem before MLB Home Run Derby leaves impression

1 hour ago

Broken Hill Correctional Centre marks a NAIDOC Week cultural first for Indigenous inmates

1 hour ago

Priyanka Chopra’s rise to fame: How 'Quantico' launched a Global star!

ALONGWALKER VIETNAM: Kênh khám phá trải nghiệm của giới trẻ, thế giới du lịch ALONGWALKER INDONESIA: Saluran untuk mengeksplorasi pengalaman para pemuda global