Judge Rejects Trump’s Effort to Delay Jan. 6 Civil Cases


A federal judge on Thursday rejected former President Donald J. Trump’s attempt to delay a group of civil lawsuits that are seeking to hold him accountable for inspiring the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Mr. Trump had sought to have the suits put on hold until after the completion of his federal criminal trial connected to many of the same events. But in a nine-page ruling, the judge, Amit P. Mehta, decided that the civil lawsuits could move forward without running the risk that Mr. Trump might damage his chances in the criminal case by revealing his defense strategy prematurely or making statements that prosecutors might use against him.

Last month, when lawyers for Mr. Trump first asked Judge Mehta to postpone the civil cases, it was the latest example of the former president seeking to pit his multiple legal matters against one another in an effort to delay them.

In the past few days, Mr. Trump has also sought to push back an important filing deadline he is facing in his classified documents case in Florida by arguing that the lawyers who have to write the court papers in question need more time because they are busy representing him at yet another criminal trial — the one in Manhattan where he stands accused of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal on the eve of the 2016 election.

While Judge Mehta’s decision to let the civil suits move forward struck a blow against Mr. Trump’s delay tactics, he and his lawyers have been remarkably successful overall at throwing sand into the gears of all four of the criminal cases he is facing. The Manhattan trial, which is now in jury selection, may turn out to be the only one of the four to go in front of a jury before this fall’s election.

The Jan. 6 civil suits are an often forgotten aspect of the barrage of legal proceedings confronting Mr. Trump. In the months after the Capitol attack, a half-dozen of them were filed by members of Congress and police officers who were at the building that day, accusing Mr. Trump of inciting the mob that stormed the building.

The suits, which all are being heard in Federal District Court in Washington, have sought unspecified financial damages from the former president.

In his ruling, Judge Mehta acknowledged that there can often be dangers involved in permitting civil and criminal cases that touch on the same subject to move forward simultaneously. But he determined that the potential perils in this particular situation were relatively limited.

In December, a federal appeals court in Washington rejected Mr. Trump’s claim that he was immune to the civil suits because their allegations arose from official acts he took while he was president.

As part of its decision, the appeals court sent the case back to Judge Mehta to decide whether Mr. Trump’s fiery speech on Jan. 6, in which he urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, should be considered an official act of his presidency or was instead a private act related to his re-election campaign.

It was that fact-finding process, which has not yet started, that prompted Mr. Trump’s lawyers to ask that the civil cases be put on hold. The lawyers were concerned that if Mr. Trump or his allies were forced to provide information about the nature of his speech or any other remarks he had made concerning Jan. 6, it could be used against him by prosecutors in the criminal case.

But Judge Mehta disagreed, saying that any new information that might come out about Mr. Trump’s speech would be limited and that prosecutors would likely not be able to use it against Mr. Trump in the criminal proceeding in any meaningful or damaging way.

The criminal case itself has been on hold for months as a series of courts have considered Mr. Trump’s attempt to use a similar immunity defense to derail it. The Supreme Court is poised to hear a final round of arguments on the immunity claim on April 25.

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