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- Lawyers representing Trump keep getting sanctioned by courts.
- At least 16 of them have been slapped by judges, mostly for litigation challenging elections.
- Alina Habba, Rudy Giuliani, and Sidney Powell are all among those who have been sanctioned.
When lawyers try to help Donald Trump with his problems, they often end up with problems of their own.
Sixteen different lawyers have been sanctioned over failed lawsuits brought on the former president’s behalf. Their attempts include litigation seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and pushing a conspiracy theory blaming the Russia investigation on a smattering of Democratic party operatives.
The risks of working as a lawyer for Trump, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen previously told Insider, comes from the mogul’s refusal to take a loss.
“For Donald, the only option is victory at any cost,” Cohen, who was disbarred following a criminal conviction based on actions he took on Trump’s behalf, told Insider. “This even includes having counsel act in ways detrimental to their reputation and career.”
Many of Trump’s lawyers, even if they are not sanctioned, end up needing lawyers of their own to ward off the worst consequences. Christina Bobb, for example, has now been entangled in the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump taking classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and has hired a defense attorney of her own.
Still, as many 16 lawyers have been personally sanctioned because of their work for Trump, and Insider has compiled a list.
What does Trump do when he wants to sue his perceived enemies? He turns to Alina Habba.
She began representing him in September 2021, completing the settlement of a sexual misconduct lawsuit Summer Zervos filed against him. More recently, she settled a lawsuit brought by protesters who alleged his security guards beat them up.
But she’s more prominently represented him on the offense, filing lawsuits against the Pulitzer Prize board for awarding newspapers that dug into Trump’s ties with Russia, his niece Mary Trump for providing the New York Times his tax returns, and the New York attorney general’s office for investigating his business practices.
Those lawsuits have not been successful. The least successful, however, was a sprawling lawsuit Trump filed against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, and several other figures linked to Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The lawsuit alleged they worked in cahoots to spin a false narrative about Trump’s links to Russia, which harmed him in the 2016 election (which he won) and dogged him during his presidency with the Mueller investigation (which resulted in no charges against him).
Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba leaves Trump Tower to meet with New York Attorney General Letitia James for a civil investigation on August 10, 2022 in New York City.
James Devaney/GC Images
Donald M. Middlebrooks, the Florida-based federal judge overseeing the case, tossed Trump’s lawsuit in September, describing it as “a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him.” Even before then, a defendant in the case named Charles Dolan filed a motion for sanctions against Habba and her colleagues, pointing out that he was incorrectly described as a Clinton campaign official and a chairman of a national Democratic party organization in the lawsuit.
The judge granted Dolan’s motion in October. His role in Clinton’s 2016 campaign, the judge found, was limited to being a door-knocking volunteer and certainly had nothing to do with convincing the FBI to investigate Trump.
“The rule of law is undermined by the toxic combination of political fundraising with legal fees paid by political action committees, 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,” Middlebrooks wrote.
Habba has appealed the sanctions ruling. Clinton and other people named in the lawsuit who are actually in her circle separately filed their own motion for sanctions against Habba in October, which remains pending.
Michael T. Madaio
Habba’s lower-profile law partner at Habba Madaio & Associates was also sanctioned by the Florida judge over the Clinton lawsuit.
Habba and Madaio are based in New Jersey. To file their lawsuit against Clinton and the Democratic National Committee in Florida, they needed to recruit a Florida-based lawyer to vouch for them. They ended up working with Ticktin, who has his own law firm in the town of Deerfield Beach. He was sanctioned, too.
Jamie Alan Sasson
Sassoon, a partner at The Ticktin Law Group involved in the case, bore the brunt of Middlebrooks’s sanctions ruling as well.
Habba, Madaio, Ticktin, and Sasson were collectively required to pay more than $66,000 in fines and fees for the failed lawsuit.
More than any other issue, Trump’s quest to overturn the 2020 election results has brought much grief to his lawyers.
Rudy Giuliani — once a leading Republican presidential candidate, mayor of New York City, and US Attorney for the Southern District of New York — took up the mantle of election conspiracy theorist in the waning days of Trump’s presidency.
He was part of Trump’s “Elite Strike Force” of lawyers trying to convince judges to cancel votes and have Trump declared the victor. Things got really bad for Giuliani through a lawsuit in Pennsylvania where he represented the Trump campaign and asked a judge to toss out 700,000 mail-in ballots and block the certification of election results.
Former Mayor of New York and attorney to Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
The case was tossed, and Biden’s victory certified. In New York, a state appeals court suspended Giuliani’s law license in 2021 after finding he made “demonstrably false and misleading” statements about voter fraud.
Washington, DC, temporarily suspended his license soon afterward. Giuliani is currently engaged in a contentious battle over whether he will be able to continue practicing law in the nation’s capital city.
A DC bar organization has also filed an ethics charge against Jeffrey Clark, a former Trump Administration Justice Department official who tried to overturn the election results, which remains pending.
Sidney Powell’s time on Trump’s “Elite Strike Force” was brief. Trump dropped her only days after announcing the team.
Undeterred, Powell struck it out on her own — on Trump’s behalf. She filed lawsuits in Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia alleging that rival election technology companies, in cahoots with each other, manipulated vote results to hand Biden his victories in those states.
Each and every lawsuit was dismissed. They later spurred defamation lawsuits from the election technology companies, Dominion and Smartmatic, which are ongoing.
Sidney Powell, attorney for President Donald Trump, conducts a news conference at the Republican National Committee on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
In Michigan, attorneys for the city of Detroit went an extra step and filed for sanctions, which were granted by US District Court Judge Linda V. Parker in August 2021.
The rabble-rousing Georgia-based lawyer was sanctioned alongside Powell in the Michigan case. Though he said he wasn’t aware his name was on Powell’s lawsuit, Parker found him “not credible” in her ruling, pointing out that he took credit for filing the lawsuit ahead of the sanctions hearing.
Yet another attorney who signed off on Powell’s Michigan lawsuit, Newman was sanctioned as well.
Rohl played the role of local counsel to help Powell file her Michigan lawsuit. In a sanctions hearing, he said he played only a minimal part in the preparation of the lawsuit and spent a short time reading it. Parker didn’t find his claims persuasive.
Hagerstrom was another Michigan-based lawyer in Powell’s suit, also sanctioned.
Stefanie Lynn Junttila
Another player in Powell’s Michigan lawsuit, Junttila filed a grammatically challenged appeal to the judge’s decision not to overturn the state’s election results. Parker found her argument that her briefs were protected by the First Amendment to be made in an “illogical and incoherent fashion.”
Julia Z. Haller
Haller was also a member of Powell’s legal team in the Michigan sanctioned in the case.
Johnson, too, was sanctioned in the Michigan case for signing onto the failed lawsuit.
Parker repeatedly hammered Kleinhendler as “dishonest” in her sanctions order. In particular, she said he didn’t tell the truth about Joshua Merritt, an IT consultant who falsely represented himself as a former US military intelligence official and claimed to have evidence of election fraud in an affidavit supporting Powell’s lawsuit.
Howard Kleinhendler outside a Manhattan courthouse in 2021.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Kleinhendler had also argued in a hearing that the judge should suspend the ratification of Michigan’s votes merely because he suspected wrongdoing.
“Litigants and attorneys cannot come to federal court asserting that certain acts violate the law based only upon an opportunity for — or counsel and the litigant’s suspicions of — a violation,” Parker wrote.
Ernest J. Walker
In Colorado, a pair of Trump-supporting lawyers, Walker and Gary D. Fielder, filed a lawsuit seeking $160 billion in damages because Biden won the 2020 election.
The judge overseeing the case rejected it, calling the suit’s conspiratorial claims “the stuff of which violent insurrections are made,” and sanctioned the two.
“This lawsuit was filed with a woeful lack of investigation into the law and (under the circumstances) the facts,” US Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter wrote. “The lawsuit put into or repeated into the public record highly inflammatory and damaging allegations that could have put individuals’ safety in danger. Doing so without a valid legal basis or serious independent personal investigation into the facts was the height of recklessness.”
Gary D. Fielder
Like Walker, Fielder was sanctioned for the Colorado lawsuit. Neureiter called it a “cut-and-paste job” that recycled elements of other failed lawsuits seeking to overturn election results. The two attorneys weren’t able to independently defend the lawsuit’s false claims in court, the judge said.