(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump can proceed with a lawsuit against his niece Mary Trump for providing information to the New York Times for its 2018 report on his taxes, a judge ruled.
New York state court Justice Robert Reed on Friday rejected Mary Trump’s argument that the former president’s lawsuit violated a state law against frivolous litigation “aimed at chilling freedom of speech and the press.”
The ruling is a modest procedural victory for Trump on an otherwise rough day in which he became the first-ever ex-president indicted for federal crimes.
Reed earlier dismissed Trump’s claims against the New York Times and ordered the former president to pay the newspaper’s legal fees and costs, saying the award-winning story was protected by the First Amendment.
Read More: NY Times Beats Trump Suit Over Pulitzer Report on His Taxes
Donald Trump claims that, by acting as a source for the newspaper, Mary Trump violated confidentiality provisions of a 2001 settlement that resolved an estate dispute over the family property business.
In Friday’s ruling, Reed said Trump can advance with a breach-of-contract claim against his niece, while dismissing allegations of unjust enrichment and bad-faith conduct.
The ruling is “no surprise” because Mary Trump violated the 2001 settlement agreement with her uncle even after benefiting from it financially, Trump’s attorney Alina Habba said in a statement. “Mary Trump had already received a lucrative settlement in the estate proceedings, but she greedily sought to exploit the situation further by disclosing confidential information in violation of an agreement that she freely signed.”
Mary Trump is likely to appeal. The ruling is her second setback in litigation with her uncle. Reed in November dismissed her earlier fraud suit against her uncle, which accused the former president and his siblings of defrauding her of her minority share of the family business. The judge said she “unambiguously” waived her write to sue in the same settlement cited by Donald Trump. Mary Trump is appealing that ruling.
A psychologist and the daughter of the former president’s deceased older brother, Mary Trump has emerged as a fierce critic of her uncle. She wrote her 2020 book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” with the goal of helping to stop his reelection.
In the book, she described providing documents to the Times for its 2018 report detailing how Donald Trump used low property valuations to minimize his tax liability. The report, which won the Pulitzer Prize, also revealed that he inherited more than $400 million from his father, contrary to Trump’s frequent assertion that he only received a small loan of around $1 million.
In her motion to dismiss, Mary Trump pointed to the many lawsuits her uncle has previously filed against his perceived enemies. She noted that, as a presidential candidate, he threatened to sue women who accused him of sexual assault and encouraged his brother to sue Mary Trump over her planned book.
Donald Trump’s use of litigation “personifies the evils” that led New York state lawmakers to amend and broaden New York’s Anti Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation statute, known as an anti-SLAPP law, in 2020, Mary Trump argued in her motion.
(Updates with details of ruling)
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