Alina Habba has done it again! Donald Trump’s razzle dazzle TV lawyer managed to net him yet another massive fine for filing a garbage lawsuit. Whodathunk that an attorney who went on a podcast and bragged that she’d rather be pretty than smart because “I can fake being smart,” might have poor judgment!
Habba, who famously got herself sanctioned along with her client to the tune of $1 million for filing a hilariously stupid RICO suit against dozens of defendants including Hillary Clinton and James Comey, just added another $392,638.69 to the tab. So much winning!
The latest addition to her trophy case comes in a suit she filed in September of 2021 against her client’s niece Mary Trump, along with the New York Times and reporters Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Beuttner.
In October of 2018 the Times published a blockbuster article detailing various questionable schemes used by Donald Trump and his siblings to drain their father Fred Trump’s assets so that when he died, they’d owe minimal federal and state income tax. Mary Trump, who had sued the estate decades earlier, gave Craig, Barstow, and Beuttner the documents which informed their reporting. Trump alleged that his niece breached the confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement she signed when the family settled the estate and that she unjustly enriched herself by writing a book about it. And he accused the Times of tortious interference with a contract, unjust enrichment, and negligent supervision.
Unsurprisingly, Justice Robert Reed of the Supreme Court of New York, was less than impressed with the claim that the paper engaged in tortious journalisming, and he tossed the claims against the media defendants in May. Worse still for Trump, he agreed that the complaint met the definition of a SLAPP under New York statute. Indeed, the court noted, the statute was tailored specifically to the defendant.
“The revised anti-SLAPP law was specifically designed to apply to lawsuits like this one,” he wrote. “In fact, among other reasons, plaintiff’s history of litigation — that some observers have described as abusive and frivolous — inspired the expansion of the law.”
You don’t say!
And today the court made it official, ordering Trump to kick up $229,921.00 to The New York Times Company, Susanne Craig and Russell Buettner, and $162,717.69 to Barstow to compensate them for having to defend themselves in this garbage litigation.
But it wasn’t all bad news for Habba and her client.
In June, Justice Reed dismissed the unjust enrichment count, but let the breach of contract claim go forward. He denied the defendant’s anti-SLAPP claims, and allowed the case to go forward. Mary Trump appealed, but today the trial judge denied her motion to stay discovery while that appeal is pending. Unfortunately for Trump, another court already tossed the liquidated damages provision for breach of confidentiality that they signed when they settled the dispute over Fred Trump’s estate, so it’s unlikely that there will be any substantial recovery. But the former president can make damn sure that his niece pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to her lawyers at Gibson Dunn. And what is money for if not to punish your relatives for daring to defy you in public, right?
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore swhere she writes the Law and Chaos substack and appears on the Opening Arguments podcast.