Donald Trump asked a federal judge for private arbitration in the Stormy Daniels case, a legal maneuver that would make any further process in the case confidential, rather than part of the public record, as a regular court case would be. If granted, the move could spare salacious and potentially embarrassing details about the case from being revealed to the public.
As Yahoo News reports, Trump's legal team filed a motion Monday asking a judge to move the case from a jury trial and into private arbitration. Trump's attorney, Mark Cohen, did not set out any specific reasons for asking for arbitration, but he did point out a key point of contention between what Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) alleges and what the Trump team alleges.
Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, opposes the move, saying that moving the case to arbitration would hide it "from the American public."
"This is a democracy and this matter should be decided in an open court of law owned by the people."
Arbitration, according to Find Law, is a legal process by which all parties agree beforehand to submit their case to an arbitrator of their choosing -- usually, but not always, a judge. All proceedings in the case -- depositions, questions, rulings -- take place behind closed doors, and (in general) the results are not a part of the public record. Generally, the parties will agree beforehand that the arbitrator's ruling is final and binding.
One wonders what Donald is trying to hide. https://t.co/mge6Gr5cif
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) April 3, 2018
Arbitration has been used to settle disputes for centuries. For example, every year dozens of Major League Baseball players take their contract disputes to binding arbitration. Similarly, whole systems exist where parties can take their disputes before private arbitrators knowledgeable about religious matters (for example, Jewish Arbitration for commercial disputes between Jews who want their case adjudicated according to Jewish, rather than Western, law).
As for the Stormy Daniels case, Daniels has argued that a non-disclosure agreement that she signed following an alleged affair with Donald Trump is invalid because, as she argues, it was signed not by Trump, but by his attorney, Mark Cohen. Cohen says that Daniels has been silent about the agreement for 10 years, never once suggesting that it was invalid or unenforceable until she filed her lawsuit last month seeking to invalidate it.
Daniels has said that she would gladly return the $130,000 she was paid in order to be able to "set the record straight." Trump's team has argued that Daniels could owe as much as $20 million for violating the agreement.