There is a reason why persons do not routinely – or ever – file weak lawsuits. First, a reputation for weak lawsuits will follow you from court to court. Second, the judge will get annoyed and sanction you. Judge Middlebrooks of the Southern District of Florida has done all the above. Former Pres. Trump filed the weakest of some dozen frivolous lawsuits in 2021 against his political rivals. The defendants in that suit included everyone from Hillary Clinton to dozens of FBI and Justice Department officials. The lawsuit addressed a hodgepodge of political actions and decision by DOJ officials over the prior several years.
Judge Middlebrooks sanctioned Donald Trump, his lawyer, Alina Habba and her law firm $937,989. The court found the lawsuit was filed for political purposes and it served no apparent legal purpose. Said the court:
“This case should never have been brought. 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.”
That is as complete a rebuke as a judge can issue. The Judge found the lawsuit deficient in some very fundamental respects:
- That the statute of limitations should be tolled because Trump was busy as president. The former president, said the Judge, still found time for many other personal lawsuits.
- The defendants were liable for malicious prosecution, even though there never was any actual prosecution.
- There was personal jurisdiction in Florida over defendants who resided elsewhere, because the defendants knew Florida is a very important state. (For pete’s sake, this claim exceeds any prior definition of silly).
- The defendants were liable under a trade secrets claim, even though there were no actual trade secrets.
- The defendants were liable for obstruction of justice, even though there was no actual official proceeding to be obstructed.
These are ludicrous legal claims. The lawyer absolutely knew they were silly when she filed this ridiculous lawsuit. Any judge would find the suit offensive, because most judges are already overwhelmed with a glut of criminal and civil lawsuits in Federal courts.
The Judge mentioned that Habba and Trump repeatedly mis-characterized the Mueller investigation report. He described as “categorically absurd” the claim that Hillary Clinton and James Comey conspired to seek an investigation into Trump
The Court noted that this lawsuit represented a playbook often used by Trump in which he files a lawsuit with boasting, political rhetoric carried over from his political rallies, personal attacks on political opponents and media, and disregard for legal principles. See ABA Bar Journal for more information here.