Donald J. Trump has sued the judge overseeing the New York attorney general’s civil fraud case against him, a move that could delay his upcoming trial.
The lawsuit was not immediately made public, but two people with knowledge of the matter said that it accused the judge of ignoring an earlier appeals court decision that Mr. Trump’s lawyers believe should significantly limit the case against him. And on Thursday, the appeals court provisionally paused the trial so it can consider Mr. Trump’s action against the judge.
It was the former president’s latest direct challenge of a judge presiding over one of his many legal proceedings. Earlier this week, his lawyers asked the judge in one of his criminal cases to voluntarily step aside.
The civil trial stems from a lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who accused Mr. Trump, his business and members of his family of fraudulently overvaluing their assets by billions of dollars. It is scheduled to begin on Oct. 2, and it still might.
But Mr. Trump has been seeking to delay the trial, and in an escalation of that effort, his lawyers this week quietly filed their lawsuit against Ms. James and the judge in the case, Arthur F. Engoron. Their move was first reported by the Daily Beast.
In the lawsuit, Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division to pause the trial while it considers the case against Ms. James and Justice Engoron. One of the appeals court judges, David Friedman, granted that request, teeing up the case to be heard by a full appellate court panel later this month.
That panel plans to issue a decision the week of Sept. 25th, days before the trial is scheduled to start, according to Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the state court system. In a statement, Ms. James said, “We are confident in our case and will be ready for trial.”
Taking aim at judges is a key page in Mr. Trump’s legal playbook. He had already sought, unsuccessfully, to move the case out of Justice Engoron’s courtroom last year.
Mr. Trump has also tried — and failed — to disqualify Justice Juan M. Merchan, the judge overseeing his criminal case in Manhattan. In May, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that Justice Merchan, who is presiding over the case related to hush money payments to a porn actress, had donated $15 to Mr. Trump’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and that his daughter helps to run a digital marketing agency that works with Democratic candidates.
But Justice Merchan dismissed those arguments in a terse ruling in which he wrote that his impartiality could not “reasonably be questioned” based on small “political contributions made more than two years ago,” or his daughter’s interests.
On Monday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers sought to disqualify another judge involved in a case against him: Tanya S. Chutkan, who is handling his prosecution in Washington on charges of trying to overturn the 2020 election. In seeking to remove Judge Chutkan from the case, the lawyers claimed that she has shown a bias against Mr. Trump in public statements made from the bench in other cases related to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
On Thursday, prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, responded to the effort to disqualify Judge Chutkan, saying the recusal motion by Mr. Trump’s lawyers “cherry-picks” portions of Judge Chutkan’s statements and “fails to establish any bias by the court.”
The prosecutors added: “The defendant has failed to identify anything approaching the clear and convincing evidence necessary to overcome the presumption of impartiality. Instead, he has relied on suggestion and innuendo to insinuate something sinister in the court simply doing its job.”
There has been a flurry of activity in Ms. James’s case against Mr. Trump recently. The attorney general recently filed documents saying that Mr. Trump exaggerated his net worth by as much as $2.2 billion a year to secure favorable loans.
But Mr. Trump’s lawyers have argued that the entire case should be thrown out, relying largely on the appeals court decision from June. That decision appeared as if it could narrow the scope of the case because of a legal time limit. Mr. Trump had received most of the loans in question too long ago for the matter to be considered by a court, his lawyers argue.
Along with that argument his lawyers had asked that the October trial be delayed, saying that they were unable to prepare for a trial without knowing its scope. But Justice Engoron denied the request in a terse handwritten order that said “defendants’ arguments are completely without merit.”
In response, Mr. Trump’s lawyers filed their lawsuit, which was brought as a so-called Article 78 action, a special proceeding that can be used to challenge New York state government agencies, and in some cases, New York state judges.
If the appeals court sides with Mr. Trump, it could have dire consequences for Ms. James’s case, potentially throwing out many of her accusations against him for being too old. If the appellate judges reject his Article 78 action, however, then the case would likely proceed to trial as planned.
Justice Engoron is still expected to hold a hearing next week at which he will rule on requests from Ms. James and Mr. Trump. Ms. James is asking that Mr. Trump be found liable on some claims before the trial starts; the former president is asking that much of her case be thrown out.