In his ruling, New York Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed noted that a recently-revised anti-SLAPP statute was inspired by Trump’s alleged abuse of the state judicial system.
A New York judge has ordered former President Donald Trump to pay The New York Times and three of its journalists nearly $400,000 in legal fees after losing a lawsuit accusing the outlet of politically-motivated conspiracy to obtain and disclose his tax returns.
According to CNBC, Trump first filed his complaint in 2021. It named defendants including The New York Times, three reporters, and his niece, Mary Trump.
In his lawsuit, Trump accused the Times and its journalists of “tortious interference,” saying that their communications with Mary Trump caused her to violate terms of a 2001 settlement-contract with the Trump family. This settlement included a confidentiality clause, which should have prevented Mary Trump from speaking publicly about its details.
However, New York Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Reed granted the Times’ motion to dismiss the claim in May 2023, finding that the journalists’ conduct was protected by the United States Constitution. In his ruling, Reed also stated that the Times’ purpose “in reporting on a story of high public interest constitutes justification as a matter of law.”
Additionally, Reed found that New York’s recently revised anti-SLAPP law—a statute that permits defendants to request the rapid dismissal of lawsuits involving protected speech—shielded the Times and its journalists from liability.
“The revised anti-SLAPP law was specifically designed to apply to lawsuits like this one,” Reed wrote. “In fact, among other reasons, plaintiffs’ history of litigation—that some observers have described as abusive and frivolous—inspired the expansion of the law.”
The Times has since praised the court’s ruling, positing it as a victory for the press.
“Today’s decision shows that the state’s newly amended anti-SLAPP statute can be a powerful force for protecting press freedom,” said New York Times spokesperson Daniell Rhoades Ha. “The court has sent a message to those who want to misuse the judicial system to try to silence journalists.”
However, Reed’s decision only removed the Times and its reporters from the lawsuit, permitting Trump to continue litigation against his niece.
Alina Habba, an attorney for Donald Trump, said that—although her client is disappointed with the ruling—he looks forward to pressing his remaining claims.
“While we are disappointed that the NY Times is no longer in this matter, we are pleased that the Court once again affirmed the strength of our claims against Mary and is denying her attempt to avoid accountability,” Habba told CNN in a statement. “We look forward to proceeding with our claims against her.”