Judge Issues Victory for Jessica Denson, Permanently Frees All 2016 Trump Campaign Workers From Illegal NDAs

On October 11, 2023, a judge issued a sweeping victory for former Trump campaign staffer Jessica Denson, signing off on a class-action settlement that will permanently free all 2016 Trump Campaign workers from the Campaign’s illegal NDA. Denson first sued to invalidate the NDA in 2018 as a pro se litigant, won an initial decision in March 2021 invalidating the NDA for herself, and today, some five years later, a federal judge ruled that her victory extends to all who signed the overly broad and illegal NDA.

The decision goes well beyond the Campaign’s concessions in the case, ensuring the permanent class-wide invalidation of the NDA enjoys the force of law.

“We just achieved a massive victory for free speech, in the face of a wannabe authoritarian who threatens American democracy to this day,” said Jessica Denson. “From what began as one woman’s fight, the excuses for silence have been lifted, and this illegal barrier between truth and the American people is forever removed. Democracy dies in fear and silence, but only if we let it. We refused, and we won.”

All former campaign staffers, independent contractors, and volunteers are now free to speak their minds about Donald Trump and his campaign without fear of lawsuit or legal threats. Denson was represented by Protect Democracy, Bowles & Johnson PLLC, and Ballard Spahr LLP. 

Joe Slaughter, of Ballard Spahr LLP, said “We’re grateful to be able to bring this case to a successful conclusion and obtain all of the relief we sought for Ms. Denson and the others subject to these NDAs. Now anyone who had been subject to seven years of enforced silence due to these illegal contracts is free to speak out without fear of the retribution that was a hallmark of the Trump Campaign’s efforts to silence its workers.”  

David Bowles, of Bowles & Johnson PLLC, said that the Trump Campaign’s NDA was a travesty under the law, and not a single Campaign worker ever should have been compelled to sign it. “Now that all of them are free at last to speak, we hope that they will use their voices to tell the truth about the Trump Campaign.”  

John Langford, counsel for Protect Democracy, said today’s ruling assures that Denson’s victory prevents the Trump campaign and future campaigns from seeking to silence criticism via overly broad NDAs. “This is a complete victory for Jessica, for all those trapped beneath the Campaign’s NDA, and for the First Amendment values that undergird our democracy. Today’s ruling will be a critical precedent preventing future candidates for public office from attempting to shield critical information from the public with boundless NDAs. Robust and open debate is the lifeblood of our democracy and today’s ruling affirms that principle.”

More information about the case is available here.

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