Trials & Litigation

Stormy Daniels ordered to pay nearly $300K in attorney fees to Trump under anti-SLAPP law

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Stormy Daniels. Kobby Dagan/

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels was ordered on Tuesday to pay $292,000 in attorney fees and costs, along with a $1,000 sanction, for filing a tossed defamation suit against President Donald Trump.

U.S. District Judge James Otero ordered payment under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, an anti-SLAPP law in Daniels’ home state that allows for early dismissal of cases involving statements on matters of public concern. The law allows for an award of attorney fees when a party wins early dismissal. SLAPP is an acronym for strategic lawsuits against public participation. The Hollywood Reporter, the Washington Post, Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal have coverage.

Daniels’ tossed suit had alleged she was defamed in a tweet that ridiculed a sketch of a man she claimed had threatened her. The incident had happened, Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has said, after she reached a magazine agreement to tell her story about an alleged affair with Trump. Trump responded to the sketch in this tweet: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

Otero ruled in October that the tweet was “rhetorical hyperbole” and an expression of opinion that is protected by the First Amendment.

On Tuesday, Otero reduced the total fees and costs requested by Trump’s lawyers by 25 percent.

Otero said the billing rates charged by Trump lawyer Charles Harder and other lawyers in his firm were reasonable, but the firm could have researched and briefed the case with less involvement from partners and greater use of highly qualified associates. Also, the hours spent on some specific tasks were excessive, Otero said.

Harder charges nearly $842 per hour, while other lawyers working on the case charged amounts ranging from $307 per hour to $756 per hour.

Otero said in his opinion that some extra time appeared to be spent conducting research and compiling factual exhibits that weren’t relevant. He cited one example: Trump’s lawyers had submitted a detailed list of Daniels’ movie history and filmography.

Harder called Otero’s rulings in the case “a total victory for the president and a total defeat for Stormy Daniels in this case.”

Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he would appeal. In a tweet, he said Daniels “will never pay a dime” because Trump and his then-lawyer Michael Cohen owe his client more than $1.5 million in a separate suit over her nondisclosure agreement requiring her to keep quiet about her alleged relationship with Trump.

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