A federal judge in Los Angeles Tuesday rejected a request by an attorney for President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer for a gag order against adult-film actress Stormy Daniels’ outspoken attorney, Michael Avenatti.
But U.S. District Judge S. James Otero agreed to extend for another 45 days a delay in proceedings in Daniels’ lawsuit against Trump and his ex-attorney, Michael Cohen, because Cohen is still the focus of a criminal investigation in New York. Daniels claims she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago and is seeking to nullify a non-disclosure agreement she signed before the 2016 presidential election.
Michael Cohen’s lawyer, Brent H. Blakely, filed court papers arguing that a restraining order is necessary because Avenatti has appeared more than 170 times on television and posted more than 500 tweets smearing Cohen in order to litigate his case “in the court of public opinion.”
Blakely asked Otero to issue a gag order “to preserve the integrity of the judicial system.”
In a written ruling Tuesday, Otero said Blakely’s request was overly broad, and such a gag order “would almost certainly constitute an improper prior restraint.”
“The restraining order requested by defendant prohibits Mr. Avenatti from engaging in several extraordinarily broad categories of speech, including commenting on the character, credibility or reputation of a party and/or their respective counsel, and the contents of any testimony, admission or statement given by a defendant or that person’s refusal or failure to make a statement,” Otero wrote. “Not only is this order specific to only one party, it plausibly prohibits Mr. Avenatti from commenting on matters that are not substantially likely to have a materially prejudicial effect on these proceedings.”
Daniels is suing Trump and Cohen, as well as the shell company Essential Consultants, seeking to invalidate a non-disclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election that attempted to prevent her from speaking out about a one-night stand she alleges she had with Trump more than a decade ago.
Otero ordered a three-month stay of the case in April in light of a federal criminal investigation of Cohen that is continuing in the Southern District of New York. With that investigation continuing, Otero agreed Tuesday to extend the stay for another 45 days.
He scheduled another hearing in the case for Sept. 10.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex once with the married Trump in 2006 and carried on a platonic relationship with him for about a year afterward. Trump has denied any sexual relationship with Daniels.
Cohen admitted paying Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her signing the “hush agreement.” The actress claims the agreement should be nullified because, although Cohen signed it, Trump never did.
Cohen initially said he used his own money to pay Daniels and was not reimbursed by Trump. However, Trump — who first publicly denied knowledge of the payment — subsequently conceded that Cohen was reimbursed.
The lawsuit also accuses Cohen of defamation over comments he made about Daniels’ truthfulness. Daniels filed a separate defamation suit against Trump in New York, alleging the president libeled her by saying she lied about a man she claims threatened her to force her to keep quiet about the alleged affair with Trump.