A New York judge dismissed former President Donald J. Trump’s lawsuit against The New York Times on Wednesday, saying the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into his finances was clearly protected by the First Amendment.
When Mr. Trump filed the lawsuit in 2021, he accused the paper and three of its reporters of conspiring in an “insidious plot” with his estranged niece, Mary L. Trump, to improperly obtain his confidential tax records for a series of stories published in 2018.
In a ruling filed on Wednesday afternoon, Justice Robert R. Reed of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan wrote that Mr. Trump’s claims against The Times and its reporters “fail as a matter of constitutional law.”
“Courts have long recognized that reporters are entitled to engage in legal and ordinary news-gathering activities without fear of tort liability — as these actions are at the very core of protected first amendment activity,” Justice Reed wrote.
The judge also ordered Mr. Trump to pay legal expenses and associated costs for The Times and its reporters, Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russ Buettner.
“The New York Times is pleased with the judge’s decision today,” said Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesman for the company. “It is an important precedent reaffirming that the press is protected when it engages in routine news gathering to obtain information of vital importance to the public.”
In a statement, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said that “we will weigh our client’s options and continue to vigorously fight on his behalf,” though she did not specifically address whether Mr. Trump’s lawyers would appeal the ruling.
The Times’s reporters “went well beyond the conventional news-gathering techniques permitted by the First Amendment,” she said, and added: “All journalists must be held accountable when they commit civil wrongs.”
While the ruling shot down the lawsuit brought by Mr. Trump, he is still ensnared in several legal matters in which he is the defendant. The former president was indicted in New York in March for his role in paying hush money to a porn star to conceal her story of a sexual encounter with him.
He is the first former or sitting president in history to face criminal charges, and he also faces investigations in Georgia and Washington.
Mr. Trump’s taxes became a matter of public concern after he failed to publicly release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign. Presidential candidates had routinely released their returns for at least four decades, but Mr. Trump declined, citing an ongoing audit.
That secrecy led to criticism that lasted throughout his presidency and to questions about his financial holdings.
The documents obtained by The Times were the basis of a series of articles that documented what the newspaper described as Mr. Trump’s history of tax avoidance and “outright fraud.” The series was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting in 2019.
The investigation also cast doubt on the former president’s claims to be a self-made billionaire. Instead, it found that he had inherited the equivalent of at least $413 million from his father, a real estate developer, much of it through “dubious tax schemes.”
Mr. Trump has frequently threatened to sue news media organizations during his long career in public life and has unsuccessfully sued The Times in the past.
In 2020, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign sued The Times for libel after the Opinion section, which operates independently from the newsroom, published a guest essay entitled “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo.” That lawsuit was dismissed in 2021.