In a recent Newsweek article, Partner Paul Golden explains some of the legal issues surrounding that may determine the fate of Mar-A-Lago should the judge’s ruling on Trump’s business licenses stand.
Donald Trump’s Plan to Save Mar-a-Lago Has One Glaring Problem
BY SEAN O’DRISCOLL ON 10/10/23 AT 7:48 AM EDT
Donald Trump could put up several roadblocks to stop his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida from being auctioned off following a landmark New York fraud case, a real-estate attorney has told Newsweek.
Whether Trump can use Florida’s tough home-protection laws to avoid an auction depends on whether Mar-a-Lago, which includes a private members’ club, is considered Donald Trump‘s residence, something that is far from certain.
Paul Golden is author of Litigating Constructive Trusts and a partner at New York law firm Coffey Modica. He spoke to Newsweek after a New York judge ordered that several Trump companies be stripped of their New York business licenses. This was in response to their fraudulent overevaluation of their properties, including the former president’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Springs.
Last week, Tristan Snell, New York’s former assistant attorney general, said Trump’s properties will likely be liquidated and sold off at auction following the summary ruling in the ongoing fraud case being taken by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Golden said that Trump may use property protection provisions of the Florida constitution to prevent an auctioning-off of Mar-a-Lago.
“If the New York case affected one of the entities that owns the Florida property, and in response Mr. Trump claims that this constitutional provision assists him, Mr. Trump would have at least a few roadblocks,” Golden added.
Under Florida’s home-protection laws, Trump could be shielded from any court order. However, he would first have to show that Mar-a-Lago is owned by what the Florida constitution calls “a natural person.”
“There is seemingly restrictive language in the [Florida] constitution, but some courts have not interpreted it in that manner,” Golden said.
“Another issue is whether Mr. Trump would be considered a Florida resident who considered that property his residence. One would expect that Letitia James would claim that it cannot truly be considered a residence because it is a members-only club with guest rooms.
“If only a portion of the property would be considered his ‘residence’, then there are further complications,” he added.
Golden said another legal issue could be whether New York court’s decision can be overcome by Florida law. “This is a seriously complicated issue,” he added.
Florida’s constitution offers some of the strongest protections in America against repossession and court orders.
To qualify, it must be “owned by a natural person” and be “the residence of the owner or the owner’s family”, Golden said.
Last week, Snell said that Trump property listed in the case will likely be auctioned off now that the business licenses of their corporations are being stripped away.
“The worst outcome that could have come from this case has already been handed down, and that is for the corporate licenses to be cancelled,” Snell told MSNBC. “The properties are likely going to be liquidated. The properties are probably going to be sold at auction. That’s probably what is going to happen. We don’t know that for sure, but that is probably where this is headed. So [Trump] is already really, really in trouble.”
Snell said that it was important to remember that Trump has already lost the summary judgement, despite his protestations of innocence. The former president had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Judge Arthur Engoron is giving Trump’s lawyers until October 26 to submit a list of names of potential receivers. This official will oversee the dissolution of the companies’ business licenses.
To prevent legal maneuvers to thwart his ruling, Engoron told Trump’s legal team they must give advance notice of any application for new business licenses in any jurisdiction. They must also flag up any attempts to create new entities to hold or acquire the assets of a company that is being dissolved under the ruling.
Update 10/11/23 10:25 a.m ET: This article was updated to clarify that Mar-a-Lago is in Palm Beach, Florida.