Jessica Denson & Protect Democracy on Precipice of Forever Voiding All 2016 Trump Campaign NDAs, Pending Court Approval

Settlement agreement would establish campaign’s form NDA as invalid & frees all who signed it to speak freely, without threat of litigation

New York, NY (Jan. 13, 2023) — Today Lead Plaintiff Jessica Denson and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign filed a proposed settlement agreement to forever free all campaign workers formerly bound to silence. Under the settlement agreement, the Trump campaign admits that the non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions of a form contract (“NDA”) signed by all of the 2016 campaign workers are invalid and unenforceable, conceding that Ms. Denson’s precedent-setting victory over the NDA in March 2021 should apply to all signers. 

Critically, the settlement goes beyond the Campaign’s recent concessions in this case, ensuring that permanent class-wide invalidation of the NDA has the force of law.  The terms of the settlement are effective pending court approval.  

Jessica Denson, who first sued to invalidate the NDA in 2018 as a pro se litigant said, “Trump’s illegal campaign NDAs are the centerpiece of his up-is-down authoritarian dreamworld, where silencers are hailed as champions of free speech, those who weaponize the justice system claim to be its victims, and the followers of would-be dictators shout, ‘Freedom!’ We held this lawlessness to account when I prevailed over my NDA, and have now reached a groundbreaking concession from the most dangerous campaign in American history to end this censorship for once and for all. Accountability is achievable, and Donald J. Trump is not above the law.¨

To ensure that the illegal provisions will never be enforced, the parties have asked the Court to enter an order permanently enjoining any and all enforcement against all former campaign workers. Pending approval of the Court, all former staffers, independent contractors and volunteers will now be free to speak their minds regarding the campaign, without fear of enforcement of the NDA by anyone, including Donald Trump. The settlement agreement would resolve a class-action lawsuit brought by Jessica Denson, a former Trump campaign staffer, represented by Protect Democracy, Bowles & Johnson PLLC, and Ballard Spahr LLP. The agreement can be found here.

John Langford, counsel for Protect Democracy, praised today’s proposed settlement for assuring protection for all those who signed the Trump campaign’s form NDA as well as for preventing the use of such overly broad speech restrictions in future political campaigns. “Today’s proposed settlement would be a victory for Jessica, everyone who signed this NDA, and our democracy. It is a natural extension of some of the most important First Amendment cases, making clear that abusing contract law to silence critics is just as problematic as abusing defamation law. Jessica’s case is already a vital, enduring precedent that unlimited NDAs concerning candidates and public officials are anathema to our profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” 

“Today marks a total surrender by the Trump campaign on a point that was always obvious: this NDA was unenforceable under the law, and the campaign workers should never have had to live under its shadow,” said David Bowles of Bowles & Johnson PLLC. “Jessica has spent years of her life achieving this goal, and finally the public will see the benefits of her hard work.”

“Today’s proposed settlement agreement would be the death knell for a contract that never should have been drafted. In some ways, this was a technical dispute, turning on black-letter contract and employment law, and we won that dispute handedly. But stepping back, this case is about more than that. We cannot permit a politician with authoritarian leanings to silence his critics by weaponizing contracts,” said Joe Slaughter, an attorney at Ballard Spahr LLP

As part of the agreement, the campaign has agreed to pay Ms. Denson and her attorneys reasonable fees and costs for this class litigation.

Protect Democracy, Bowles & Johnson PLLC, and Ballard Spahr LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jessica Denson and other former 2016 Trump campaign workers to put a stop to the campaign’s ongoing efforts to silence its former workers, and to make clear that public officials and candidates for office cannot use campaign NDAs to forever strip workers of their right to participate in public debate. 

More information about the case is available here.


Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.

Bowles & Johnson PLLC is a New York City based law firm specializing in a modern approach to the practice of law in the areas of complex civil litigation, transactional law and corporate law.

Ballard Spahr LLP is a national firm with more than 650 lawyers in 15 offices in the United States, serving clients across industries in litigation, business and transactions, finance, intellectual property, and real estate.

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