On Friday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of Washington, D.C., reversed course on a gag order she had previously issued against former President Donald Trump in the alleged election subversion case.
This decision was made to give both parties additional time to brief her on Trump’s request to pause the order while his appeal is pending. The Justice Department has until Wednesday to respond and Trump will have until Saturday to reply.
In a 33-page filing, his attorneys strongly urged Chutkan to pause the order while the appeal is underway; however, special counsel Jack Smith expressed chagrin at this decision as he had charged Trump in the case.
“Trump has already appealed the gag order to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and in a 33-page filing on Friday, his attorneys urged Chutkan to pause the order while that appeal plays out,” CNN added.
Following a contentious hearing, Judge Chutkan issued an order which some observers deemed to be more expansive than what was reported by several media outlets. Only a few days later, the judge reversed her own ruling.
The cause of this pause is uncertain; however, it has been suggested that it is due to apprehension that higher federal courts will overturn her decision – an opinion held by many on both sides of the political spectrum.
Chandra Bozelko, a 2023 Harry Frank Guggenheim Criminal Justice Reporting Fellow at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, expressed in USA Today that she believes the order was blatantly unconstitutional.
“In what kind of case do you think it would be appropriate for a criminal defendant to call the prosecutor a thug and stay on the streets?” U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan asked Donald Trump’s attorney John Lauro on Monday during a hearing on whether the former president’s speech should be restricted.
Lauro didn’t provide the correct answer, which is this: all of them.
Bozelko argued that criminal defendants often publicly demonstrate a similar level of disdain for prosecutors as prosecutors do for them. She noted that the only difference in President Trump’s characterization of Special Counsel Jack Smith as a “thug” was the amount of attention it garnered.
Bozelko suggested that Chutkan, a former public defender, is underestimating the importance of the defendant’s voice in criminal cases which could potentially be unconstitutional. She stated this to be akin to not understanding the concept of a legal defense.
“A defendant’s rights may be in tension with the First Amendment rights of the news media, but that’s not what’s happening with the former president. This isn’t even a situation where a lawyer’s speech is restrained,” Bozelko added. “That has happened in the past on occasion, such as the gag order in the trial of the Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Rodney King. Those are the two situations that courts have reviewed in the past, but telling a defendant he can’t speak is unprecedented.”
She concluded: “The constitutional fallout of Chutkan’s partial gag order is yet to be seen; Trump has said that he’ll appeal it before the case is over. Stopping him from speaking is stopping him from defending himself, and that’s something no judge presiding over a criminal case should ever be allowed to do.”