A federal judge has refused to issue a gag order against Stormy Daniels' always-outspoken lawyer in the California civil case pitting Daniels vs. President Donald Trump and Michael Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants, LLC, over the validity of a nondisclosure agreement.
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U.S. District Judge S. James Otero declined to issue a gag order on Michael Avenatti, which had been sought by Cohen.
Cohen alleged that a restraining order was needed to put an end to Avenatti’s pervasive attacks that were allegedly impacting his right to a fair trial.
Otero notes in his order that the civil case is still in its early stages, and that a gag order at this stage “could last months” and would “almost certainly constitute an improper prior restraint” on Avenatti.
Though he ruled in Avenatti’s favor, Otero still managed to work in a few digs at his “incessant commentary” about issues related to the case.
“No person involved in this action has been more ubiquitous in the media than Michael Avenatti,” Otero wrote.
Otero wrote that he shares the concerns of Judge Kimba Wood -- who is overseeing the litigation in the Southern District of New York over the searches of Cohen’s New York properties -- about “the extent and manner of Mr. Avenatti’s publicity tour,” but Otero determined that he did not have the capacity to slap a gag order on Avenatti because of a possible prejudicial impact on Cohen in another federal district.
“It is clear that Mr. Cohen's worry is not about the effect of the publicity on this litigation,” Otero wrote, “but the effect of the publicity surrounding this action on the SDNY Action. While this is a valid concern, this Court does not have the constitutional authority to impose a gag order on an attorney due to the potential effect of his comments on a proceeding outside the Court's jurisdiction.”
Avenatti tweeted "We will not be silenced!" last Friday, prior to Tuesday's ruling.
We will not be silenced! I am pleased to report that all indications are that Michael Cohen and Donald Trump have failed miserably in their effort to prevent me from speaking the truth to the press and the public. They were almost laughed out of court.https://t.co/jjb8Cnfuds— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) July 27, 2018
Case on hold for at least 45 days
As to the question of where the litigation by Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, goes from here -- Otero picked the middle ground -- in deciding to extend the stay on the case for another 45 days.
Essential Consultants, Cohen and Trump had asked for another 90 days, while Avenatti had advocated for restarting the proceedings, at least in part, without delay.
The next court proceeding in the case is a scheduling conference on Sept. 10.