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Judge Tosses Trump Family Attempt to Stop Publication of Niece’s Book: You Complained to the Wrong Court

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on his way to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on May 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump is traveling to Allentown, Pennsylvania to visit Owens & Minor, a medical equipment distributor.

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:

Trump v. Trump by Law&Crime on Scribd

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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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is the anchor and executive producer of Law&Crime Daily on the Law&Crime Network.  The broadcast is a recap of the day's most compelling trials and court proceedings.  He also serves as an editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.