By Kenneth Tiven in Washington
“Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim.”
US Federal District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks last year dismissed a lawsuit filed by former US president Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, suggesting court sanctions would be forthcoming against Trump and his lawyer, Alina Habba.
This week the Judge delivered the bill: $937,989 (roughly Rs 7.63 crore) wrapped in a 46-page scathing explanation of bad legal behaviour.
The sanctions were issued on behalf of 18 defendants who submitted a joint motion accusing Trump of knowingly filing a suit with bogus and unbelievable claims to dishonestly advance a political narrative.The ruling was a significant rebuke of Trump, who has rarely faced such consequences in his long history of using the courts as a weapon against business rivals and partners, as well as former employees and reporters.
The ruling is the latest legal setback for Trump, who was not deterred by his failed lawsuits challenging the result of the 2020 presidential election.
In dismissing the case, Judge Middlebrooks called it a political manifesto, part of a long pattern of abuse of the courts by Trump. In assessing the nearly one million dollar fine, he said, “Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries. He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer. He knew full well the impact of his actions.”
Trump had a law suit against the New York Attorney general Letetia James pending before Judge Middlebrooks in the same Florida federal court. In his sanctions ruling, Judge Middlebrooks noted the James case presented a pattern of Trump abusing the legal system, stressing that he had already urged Trump and his lawyers to consider dropping the case because it “has all the telltale signs of being both vexatious and frivolous.”
In an indication that the ruling may have had immediate consequences, other Florida-based lawyers for Trump filed a terse notice on Friday that he was voluntarily dropping a lawsuit he had filed for Trump against James. Trump had filed that over the objections of his own longstanding legal advisers, who had told him it was frivolous.
In 2021, a similar case in Michigan over frivolous political law suits also resulted in a judge fining and admonishing lawyers for the Trump campaign.