A New York surrogate court judge has dismissed a lawsuit which sought to shut down the publication of a tell-all book by President Donald Trump‘s niece. The tome, entitled Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, has been written by Mary L. Trump and is set to be published by Simon & Schuster. The missive promises to reveal damaging secrets about the president.
The judge who dismissed the case stated simply in a four-page decision that his court does not have jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Here’s the legal issue. The Trump family, led by Robert S. Trump, the president’s younger brother, sought to use a New York surrogate’s court to hold book author Mary L. Trump to a nondisclosure and confidentiality agreement she signed involving assets from the estate of Fred C. Trump, the president’s father. Other members of the family also signed the same agreement.
The Trump family first requested a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order, both backed by an emergency affirmation by their attorney, against publication of the book. The family then sought a permanent injunction, damages, and declaratory relief.
However, the surrogate’s court system handles very specific matters, such as adoptions and “cases involving the affairs of decedents, including the probate of wills and the administration of estates.” As such, the judge, Peter J. Kelly, ultimately ruled that his court couldn’t handle the dispute surrounding the book, which he said had little to nothing to do with the actual estate of Trump family forebearer Fred Trump.
“[T]he administration of this estate will not be impacted one iota” by the dispute, the judge said.
While the judge did say surrogate’s courts have expanded jurisdiction to sometimes hear matters tangential to the administration of an estate, the Trump book dispute was too far afield. “Mary’s actions are not being challenged as a distributee, beneficiary, or creditor of the estate, but in her capacity as a signatory of an agreement with Robert,” the judge wrote. “The mere fact that the terms of the agreement alleged to [have] be[en] violated are contained in a stipulation of settlement arrived at during a probate contest is not enough, standing alone, to empower this court to obtain jurisdiction.”
“Most saliently,” the judge wrote, the NDA “acknowledges” that “in the event of a breach . . . an injunction may be obtained by ‘any court of competent jurisdiction.'” That means another court, he reasoned, citing the NDA’s own terms. “[T]he jurisdiction of the Surrogate’s Court is retained in a separate paragraph [in the NDA] only to ‘implement and carry out the terms'” of the NDA itself. If the distribution of assets were at issue, the surrogate’s court would retain jurisdiction, the judge reasoned; in the dispute about the book, asset distribution is not at stake. The judge said that according to the NDA, “another forum was contemplated” for this type of dispute.
The judge also said it was somewhat ridiculous for the Trump family’s attorneys to revive the estate litigation to deal with Mary L. Trump’s book. The family’s legal “submissions suffer from several improprieties,” the judge said, including that the Fred C. Trump estate “terminated in 2001 by entry of a decree and is, therefore, non-existent.” In other words, not only was the court the wrong court, but the case involving Fred C. Trump’s estate is the wrong case. The estate case was long ago adjudicated — and it cannot be revived in this manner nineteen years later.
READ the judge’s order below:
Editor’s note: this piece, which began as a breaking news report, has been updated.
[photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
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