Jessica Denson Wins Major Victory Over Trump Campaign
- March 30, 2021
NEW YORK, NY – Today, a federal court held that the standard form non-disclosure agreement (Form NDA) the Trump campaign required its workers to sign is invalid and unenforceable. The ruling is the result of 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 court’s ruling can be found here.
“The former president and his campaign have been waging an all-out war on truth, aided in no small part by unfettered NDAs that bullied his workers into silence for eternity,” said Jessica Denson. “Today’s beautiful ruling rebukes this unmitigated censorship, and I am so grateful that my years of trial have resulted in this illegal roadblock to transparency, accountability, and justice being struck down.”
The court denied the Trump campaign’s motion to dismiss the case and issued a declaratory judgment that the Form NDA signed by Denson is invalid.
“Today’s ruling is a hard-earned victory for freedom of speech and for Jessica,” said David Bowles of Bowles & Johnson PLLC. “For three years, the Trump campaign has threatened and harassed Jessica for having the temerity to criticize the Trump campaign and presidency. We defeated the campaign after it obtained a $50,000 judgment against her and attempted to enforce the award in state court. Today’s decision puts a stop once and for all to the Trump campaign’s efforts to silence Jessica.”
“The court’s decision underscores the limited purposes for which NDAs may be used in New York,” said Joe Slaughter, an attorney at Ballard Spahr LLP. “Organizations can use NDAs to protect legitimate trade secrets and confidential commercial information. They cannot use unlimited NDAs to silence employees from ever uttering anything an employer dislikes.”
John Langford, counsel for Protect Democracy, noted that this ruling has broad implications not just for campaign workers, but for the American people. “Political campaigns’ use of overbroad NDAs like those used by the Trump campaign prevent the American people from obtaining vital information about candidates for office and elected officials. Today’s ruling vindicates our profound national commitment to uninhibited, robust, and wide-open public debate about public officials and candidates for office.” As the Court explained, because the effect of the Form NDA “is to chill the speech of Denson and other former Campaign workers about matters of public interest, the non-disclosure provision is harmful not only to them but also to the general public.”
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.
Plaintiffs intend to pursue class certification to ensure that today’s ruling applies to everyone who signed the campaign’s Form NDA.
More information about the case is available here.
About Protect Democracy:
Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.
Carlos Álvarez-Aranyos, [email protected], (202) 672-4173
Paulina Montañez-Montes, [email protected], (202) 997-1141