Judge Denies Trump’s Request for Gag Order on Michael Avenatti

A federal judge in Los Angeles will allow the Michael Avenatti “publicity tour” to go on. Three days after lawyers for Donald Trump and his personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made the case for shutting Avenatti up in a hearing before Central District of California Judge S. James Otero, the judge handed down a ruling denying their motion.

“So much winning from these two!” Avenatti quipped on his Twitter feed, after Otero’s ruling slapping aside the Trump-Cohen gag order request came down shortly before noon on Tuesday in Los Angeles. The ruling is part of the Stormy Daniels lawsuit which seeks to inavalidate a “hush” agreement that prevented Daniels from speaking about a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

That lawsuit was filed in March. Cohen and Trump have continued to fight Daniels and Avenatti, her attorney, in the lawsuit even though Daniels has already spoken publicly about the encounter on numerous occasions, including in a CBS 60 Minutes interview.

In the motion, Cohen’s lawyer, Brent Blakely, cited numerous public statements by Avenatti directed at Cohen, saying that Aveatti’s statements could deny Cohen the right to a fair trial, and that, “Mr. Avenatti’s actions are mainly driven by his seemingly unquenchable thirst for publicity.”

Avenatti said that he had a First Amendment free speech right to make statements about the case in public, but in his ruling, Otero said that judges weighing gag order requests must balance First Amendment rights against the guarantees in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which requires courts to make sure legal proceedings are carried out fairly, even “in the face of excessive publicity,” according to a legal precedent cited by Otero in his ruling.

The judge also noted that, in the ongoing federal criminal investigation of Cohen taking place in New York, Judge Kimba Wood said that if Avenatti wanted to participate in that case, she would impose a gag order forcing him to call a halt to what she called his “publicity tour.”

But Otero ruled that the gag order requested by Cohen and Trump was way too broad, and could prevent Avenatti even from speaking on subjects “not substantially likely” to affect the Daniels vs. Trump and Cohen case at all.

Otero also said that rather than a court-imposed gag order, less “restrictive” ways to keep Avenatti quiet existed. For example, Otero suggested, Cohen and Trump could complain to the California State Bar if they believe Avenatti’s conduct has violated state ethics rules.

Cohen and Trump also requested that Otero delay the Daniels lawsuit for another 90 days, after granting an initial 90-day delay on April 27. While Otero agreed that because of the “unusual nature” of the criminal case against Cohen in New York, that he should grant a “brief extension” of the delay.

But Otero delayed the case for only 45 more days, scheduling the next court appearance for September 10.

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