Trump Lawyer Drops Conflict Claim in $83.3M Defamation Case, Ending Speculation of BigLaw Overlap

New York City, New York – A lawyer representing former President Donald Trump in an $83.3 million defamation case has withdrawn a claim of conflict of interest against the opposing lawyer and the judge. Alina Habba, Trump’s attorney, initially argued that both the plaintiff’s lawyer and the judge had previously worked at the same law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, in the 1990s. However, in a recent letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, Habba stated that she is now convinced that there was no “mentor-mentee relationship” between the judge and the opposing lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, during their time at Paul Weiss.

The defamation case was filed by writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a department store dressing room. In the first case, the jury found that Trump had sexually abused Carroll but stopped short of declaring it rape. Carroll was awarded $5 million in damages, partly for the alleged assault and partly for defamation resulting from Trump’s denial in October 2022. In the second case, the jury recently awarded Carroll $83.3 million, including $18.3 million in compensatory damages for defamation and $65 million in punitive damages.

Despite these verdicts, Habba still plans to appeal. In her letter to Judge Kaplan, she expressed concerns about the judge’s treatment of Trump and perceived preferential treatment towards Carroll’s lawyers. Habba stated that these issues would be addressed in the appeal. It is also possible that the excessive amount of punitive damages awarded to Carroll will be challenged under the due process clause.

The accusation of a conflict of interest and subsequent withdrawal highlights the contentious nature of this high-profile defamation case. Both sides have engaged in a war of words, with Trump and Habba accusing the judicial system of bias, while Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s lawyer, has called the allegations baseless and threatened to seek sanctions against Habba for false accusations.

As the legal battle continues, it remains to be seen how the appeals process will unfold and whether the verdicts will ultimately be upheld or overturned. The case has garnered significant media attention, with news outlets closely following the developments and providing analysis of the legal arguments presented. These ongoing proceedings further shed light on the legal challenges faced by public figures like Donald Trump and the complexities surrounding defamation cases.