Courts aren't for 'performative litigation,' judge says, as he sanctions Trump lawyers for conspiracy suit

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A group of lawyers are facing sanctions for their representation of former President Donald Trump in a conspiracy lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and several others.

U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks of West Palm Beach, Florida, said in a Nov. 10 decision every claim in the suit was frivolous, and the suit was filed to pursue a political agenda.

The New York Times, Politico and CNN are among the publications with coverage.

An amended version of the suit, which named 31 people and organizations as defendants, alleged a conspiracy to undermine Trump’s candidacy through false claims of Russian influence. Middlebrooks, a judge in the Southern District of Florida, had tossed the suit in September.

Middlebrooks ordered four Trump lawyers to pay a $50,000 fine and more than $16,000 in legal fees for one defendant, Democratic public relations executive Charles Dolan. A separate sanctions request by Clinton and several other defendants is pending.

Middlebrooks ordered these lawyers and law firms to pay the sanctions: Alina Habba, Michael T. Madaio, Peter Ticktin, Jamie Alan Sasson, Habba Madaio & Associates and the Ticktin Law Group.

Middlebrooks said the only common thread against the defendants was “Trump’s animus.”

“These were political grievances masquerading as legal claims,” said Middlebrooks, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton. He called the suit “performative litigation for purposes of fundraising and political statements.”

Middlebrooks said the lawyers persisted, even though they were warned that their allegations against Dolan lacked foundation. Middlebrooks cited examples.

Dolan had argued that he couldn’t be sued in Florida because he engaged in no activities there, and he lived in Virginia. He was served in Arlington, Virginia, but the amended suit claimed that Dolan lived in New York.

Explaining their mistake, the Trump lawyers wrote: “It must be noted that Charles Dolan is an incredibly common name, and plaintiff’s counsel’s traditional search methods identified countless individuals with said name across the country, many of whom reside in New York.”

Middlebrooks said the example wasn’t of great significance, but it “reflects the cavalier attitude towards facts demonstrated throughout the case.”

Dolan was also wrongly described as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. His lawyers pointed out the error, but the amended suit described him vaguely as the chairman of a national Democratic political organization. That was also untrue.

Habba said an appeal is planned.

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