Judge Tosses Trump Campaign Aide Confidentiality Agreement
The case is one of several in which former President Donald J. Trump went after former aides that criticized him or his campaign.,
A federal judge threw out a confidentiality agreement signed by a Trump campaign aide.
By Eric Lipton
- March 30, 2021
An effort by former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign to silence a former campaign worker who claimed she was the target of abusive treatment and sexual harassment by another member of Mr. Trump’s campaign was effectively voided on Tuesday by a federal court judge in New York.
Judge Paul G. Gardephe nullified a confidentiality agreement signed in 2016 by Jessica Denson, who had worked on Mr. Trump’s campaign that year as a phone bank supervisor and Hispanic outreach coordinator. Judge Gardephe concluded the agreement was “invalid and unenforceable.”
Mr. Trump’s campaign had won a $50,000 award against Ms. Denson after asserting that she had violated the confidential agreement when she first raised the mistreatment claims. That award was overturned by a New York State court last year.
Ms. Denson then sued on behalf of herself and other Trump campaign aides who had been forced to sign confidentiality agreements, asking that they all be invalidated as too broad and illegal in New York because they lasted indefinitely.
Judge Gardephe declined on Tuesday to invalidate all of the confidentiality agreements. But he did rule that the one Ms. Denson had signed was invalid.
“It is difficult if not impossible for Denson or another campaign employee to know whether any speech might be covered by one of the broad categories of restricted information,” the ruling says.
Ms. Denson’s lawyers — David K. Bowles of Bowles & Johnson, Joe Slaughter of Ballard Spahr, and John Langford from the nonprofit group Protect Democracy — worked on the case pro bono and now intend to ask the court to consider broadly invalidating all of the confidentiality agreements that Trump campaign workers signed.
Ms. Denson claimed she was “subject to a hostile work environment and experienced sex discrimination, and that after she complained, high-ranking persons in the campaign retaliated against her.”
Mr. Trump’s post-presidential office did not respond to a request for comment.
Her case was one of several in which Mr. Trump — using lawyers paid for by his campaign or at times even the Justice Department — went after former aides that criticized him or his campaign, including Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser to Mr. Trump, and Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide.
“The campaign has been using this to beat up campaign workers for years,” Mr. Bowles said on Tuesday. “Our position is now these things are illegal.”