A federal judge in Florida has ordered Donald J. Trump and one of his lawyers to pay nearly a million dollars in sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit against nearly three dozen of Trump’s perceived political rivals, including Hillary Clinton.
The sanctions, first reported by The New York Times, serve as a significant rebuke of the former president and add to his growing list of legal woes.
“This case should never have been brought,” U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks wrote in a 46-page ruling. “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.”
In the Thursday ruling, the judge addressed Trump’s history of using the courts as a cudgel, going back decades in his business career.
“Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” Judge Middlebrooks wrote. “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.”
Judge Middlebrooks said Mr. Trump’s suit had been “brought in bad faith for an improper purpose” and had “needlessly harmed” the 31 individuals and organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, he had sued “in order to dishonestly advance a political narrative.” The judge added that Mr. Trump’s use of the courts had helped to undermine the public’s confidence in them.
“A continuing pattern of misuse of the courts by Mr. Trump and his lawyers undermines the rule of law, portrays judges as partisans and diverts resources from those who have suffered actual legal harm,” he wrote.
The judge said Trump and the lawyer who filed the case for him, Alina Habba, and her firm, Habba Madaio & Associates, are to pay $937,989.39.