At the recent America Fest event in Phoenix, Arizona, Alina Habba, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, made headlines with her remarks about a substantial legal sanction. Habba, addressing the ultra-conservative crowd, highlighted a nearly $1 million penalty imposed by a Florida federal judge, Donald Middlebrooks, earlier this year.
This sanction stemmed from a lawsuit filed on behalf of Trump against Hillary Clinton and numerous federal officials, which was ultimately dismissed. The lawsuit, initiated in March 2022, accused Clinton and over 30 others, including high-profile FBI and Justice Department figures, of conspiring to falsely allege collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential race.
Judge Middlebrooks, a Clinton appointee, dismissed the lawsuit, criticizing it as a political manifesto and an abuse of the judicial process.
Legal Experts Respond
During her speech, Habba recalled the case's dismissal and the subsequent sanction.
She noted the presence of about 50 lawyers representing the defendants, who she referred to as the "radical left." Emphasizing the sanction, she declared, "It got dismissed, and me and President Trump got sanctioned a million dollars for going against crooked Hillary." This statement was met with shock from the audience and a mixture of applause and cheers as she affirmed their commitment to continue fighting.
Legal experts quickly responded to Habba's comments. Orin Kerr, a law professor at U.C. Berkeley, highlighted the significant media attention the lawsuit and sanction received, contrary to Habba's claims of it being underreported.
National security attorney Mark Zaid described Habba's public boasting about the sanction as unusual and indicative of unethical behavior. Bradley Moss, another national security attorney, commented on the frivolous nature of the case that led to the sanction.
Judge's Scathing Sanction
Judge Middlebrooks's order in January was particularly scathing. He described Trump as a "mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process" and ordered him and Habba to pay $938,000 to cover the legal fees of the 31 defendants.
The judge criticized the lawsuit for being frivolous and filed in bad faith, aimed at harassing political adversaries. This penalty marked the second sanction in the lawsuit, following a $50,000 fine sought by defendant Charles Dolan in November 2022.
The January sanction included a notable $172,000 payout to Clinton. Trump's legal challenges in 2023 have been numerous, including 91 charges across four criminal cases. Middlebrooks's ruling dissected the flaws in Trump's initial lawsuit, highlighting misstatements and distortions of key documents.
The judge notably criticized Trump's baseless claims against Clinton and the Justice Department, as well as Habba's attacks on federal judges in a Fox News interview, underscoring a pattern of harassment and baseless allegations.