Attorneys for former president Donald Trump were ordered by a federal judge on Thursday to pay $50,000 as punishment for pursuing a “frivolous” lawsuit against a number of Trump’s political rivals, including Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
Using a political narrative in court “without any factual basis or any cognizable legal theory,” Trump’s attorneys may have damaged the rule of law, according to Judge Donald Middlebrooks’ harsh ruling in Florida federal court.
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The judge suggested that the behavior of the attorneys may call for the “attention of the Bar and disciplinary authorities,” adding that “further punishments may be required.”
The fines were issued two months after Middlebrooks dismissed the lawsuit, calling it a “two-hundred-page political manifesto” and requiring Trump’s attorneys to pay a defence attorney’s legal fees.
The civil lawsuit brought by the former president in March painted a picture of a vast conspiracy involving a large number of defendants to promote a false account of the collaboration between Trump’s team and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
Trump demanded tens of millions of dollars in damages, alleging, among other things, that the RICO Act, a federal statute intended to fight organized crime, had been broken.v
“.. The rule of law is undermined by .. reckless and factually untrue statements by lawyers at rallies and in the media, and efforts to advance a political narrative through lawsuits without factual basis or any cognizable legal theory.”@business https://t.co/SngSgRY9AA
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) November 10, 2022
Middlebrooks stated in the order issued on Thursday in U.S. District Court in southern Florida, “This was a shotgun lawsuit.” “Thirty-one people and organizations received court summonses and were compelled to retain attorneys to defend themselves against baseless claims. The hatred of Mr. Trump was the only thing uniting them.
Alina Habba, Michael Madaio, Peter Ticktin, and Jamie Alan Sasson, four of Trump’s attorneys, were found to be in violation of Rule 11 of the federal rules of civil procedure, which prohibits the filing of frivolous lawsuits.
They are also required to pay legal costs totaling $16,274 that were accrued by defendant Charles Dolan, who requested the sanctions, in addition to $50,000 in sanctions.
In a statement to CNBC, Habba said, “It should come as no surprise that we will be appealing this decision. Inquiries for comment from CNBC were not immediately answered by the other Trump lawyers.
The order from Middlebrooks stated that the original complaint’s flaws were fundamental and clear. He pointed out that Trump’s lawyers simply “added arguments in an attempt to skirt the RICO statute of limitations” and tacked on two more defendants “when those failings were identified” in motions to dismiss the case.
Middlebrooks claimed that the defendants’ selection and the absence of any workable legal theories of liability “reflect an intention to injure rather than to redress legal harm.”
NEW: Judge hits Trump lawyers with $50K fine plus legal costs for frivolous claims in Russia-related lawsuit against Clinton & others. Calls case an abuse of legal system for political ends, suggests bar discipline. Story w/@kyledcheneyhttps://t.co/mHtxwjpOaX
— Josh Gerstein (@joshgerstein) November 11, 2022
He wrote that Habba appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity” and “continued to advance Plaintiff’s claims” even after the judge called attention to the “deficiencies” of the legal complaint.
The judge cited a passage from Habba’s interview with Habba from September 10 in which she criticised Middlebrooks as a “Clinton judge” who “basically ignored every factual basis” for the lawsuit.
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Reckless and factually false statements made by attorneys at rallies and in the media, efforts to advance a political narrative through lawsuits without a basis in fact or any discernible legal theory, and the toxic combination of political fundraising with legal fees paid by political action committees all undermine the rule of law, according to Middlebrooks.
“Lawyers are encouraging this behavior, and I have doubts that Rule 11 will be sufficient to stop this abuse. Aspects might fall outside of the judiciary’s purview and necessitate the Bar and disciplinary authorities’ attention. Additional penalties might be necessary, the judge wrote. However, in order to penalise this behaviour and discourage similar behaviour by these lawyers and others, Rule 11 should be applied to legal filings like those in contention here.
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