News Gathering

New York Judge Dismisses Trump’s $100M Lawsuit Against the New York Times

Donald Trump visits Aberdeen, Scotland
Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures after arriving at Aberdeen International Airport in Aberdeen, Scotland, May 1, 2023. (Reuters/Russell Cheyne)

By Susanna Granieri

A New York judge dismissed Donald Trump’s $100 million lawsuit against his niece, the New York Times and three of its reporters May 3, ruling that the paper’s investigation into the former president’s finances is protected news gathering under the First Amendment.

In September 2021, Trump sued Mary Trump, the Times and three of its reporters — David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner — and claimed the Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation was a result of an “insidious plot” involving Mary and the Times’ reporters “to obtain confidential and highly sensitive records” about Trump’s finances.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Reed found that Trump’s claims against the newspaper and its reporters “fail as a matter of constitutional law.”

“Courts have long recognized that reporters are entitled to engage in legal and ordinary newsgathering activities without fear of tort liability — as these actions are at the very core of protected First Amendment activity,” Justice Reed wrote.

Justice Reed also noted that under New York’s anti-SLAPP law, which was amended in 2020, Trump must pay the Times’ legal fees because his “claims plainly constitute a strategic lawsuit against public participation.”

Trump’s “characterization of The Times’ actions,” Justice Reed wrote, “does not, on its own, remove the constitutional protections that are extended to the press during the process of ordinary newsgathering.”

In a story about the lawsuit’s dismissal, the New York Times quoted its company spokesman Charlie Stadtlander who said the decision “is an important precedent reaffirming that the press is protected when it engages in routine news gathering to obtain information of vital importance to the public.”

May 3, 2023 — Justice Reed’s Order of Dismissal

Sept. 21, 2021 — Trump’s Original Complaint