Gardephes 36-page decision said a no-degradation clause in the agreement was similarly flawed.
“The campaign’s efforts to date to enforce secrecy and non-degradation rules show that it is not operating in good faith to protect what it has identified as legitimate interests,” the judge added. “The evidence in the court instead shows that the campaign has repeatedly attempted to enforce secrecy and non-degradation rules in order to suppress speech it believes is detrimental to its interests.”
Gardephe passed the verdict on a case of Jessica Denson, a Hispanic outreach director for Trump in 2016, who accused the campaign of gender discrimination in a separate legal battle.
At one point, the campaign convinced an arbitrator to hand Denson a $ 50,000 award for violating the agreement. However, this price was later canceled.
Celebrating the latest verdict, Denson said it dealt a death blow to a tactic Trump has long used to control his image.
“I’m over the moon,” Denson told POLITICO. “This president … the former president aspired to autocracy every four years claiming he was an advocate for freedom and freedom of speech. … There are many people out there who have seen cases like mine and were afraid to speak up. “
Trump has been calling for such confidentiality agreements from his personal employees and employees in his companies for decades. When he entered the presidential race in 2016, his lawyers continued to call for NDAs based on those he had previously used in his personal and business affairs.
The practice continued during Trump’s presidency despite warnings from proponents of the First Amendment that it was unconstitutional to require public officials to swear an oath of secrecy. It remains a mystery who in the White House had to sign such agreements and what they covered.
The Justice Department joined the secrecy last year by filing a lawsuit against Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former volunteer advisor to First Lady Melania Trump, over a scrapbook that Winston Wolkoff wrote. Some legal experts questioned the basis of the lawsuit, which was based on an NDA she signed. Days after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Justice Department dropped the case.
Denson said she was sure such agreements would have helped quell criticism of Trump during his 2016 presidential contest and during his four-year tenure.
“Only the terms of the NDA have been severely restrictive and have completely suppressed public debate, the truthful public debate about the Trump campaign and the presidency. So this is a massive victory,” said the former aide. “NDAs like this are part of the reason we got a candidacy and presidency from Donald Trump in the first place.”
An adviser to the former president expressed his disapproval of the verdict, saying Trump’s lawyers are considering their options.
“We believe the court made the wrong decision and that President Trump’s lawyers are considering all possible legal remedies,” said the aide, who asked not to be identified.
Technically, Gardephe’s decision only applies to Denson if the campaign fails to enforce the NDA against them. But her lawyers said Tuesday they believe the decision will effectively overturn any NDAs that issued the Trump campaign.
“The court decides point by point, almost entirely in our favor,” said New York attorney David Bowles, who handled the case for Protect Democracy, an advocacy group that formed against Trump, but describes itself as impartial and anti-authoritarian.
An attorney for the group, John Langford, said the court ruling went beyond Trump and issued a warning as a warning to any campaign making similar efforts to strangle its employees.
“From our point of view, it’s really not about politics,” said Langford. “Nobody should give up their right to freedom of expression or have to swear allegiance to a candidate forever just to get a job on a campaign or volunteer for a campaign.”
The court ruling does not preclude the use of tighter nondisclosure agreements to protect sensitive campaign information, which Richter said could include survey data and donation strategies.
The Trump campaign asked Gardephe to edit the regulations if it deemed them unenforceable, but he refused.