Jonathan Kraut | Trump Makes a Vexatious Litigant

Jonathan Kraut

In March 2022, Alina Habba, attorney for former President Donald Trump, filed a lawsuit in federal court.  

This lawsuit claims Hilary Clinton, Democratic Party leaders, former head of the FBI James Comey, and others had formed a conspiracy guilty of racketeering, for rigging the 2016 election against Trump, and for wrongfully accusing Trump of colluding with Russia. 

Specifically, Trump’s claim states “the defendants, blinded by political ambition, orchestrated a malicious conspiracy to disseminate patently false and injurious information about Donald J. Trump and his campaign, all in the hopes of destroying his life, his political career and rigging the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton.” 

This lawsuit was filed in a specific court in the Southern District of Florida where Trump had hoped that Judge Aileen Canon would be appointed as presiding judge.   

When the case rotation went to federal Judge Donald Middlebrooks, Habba filed a protest that Judge Middlebrooks would be partial. Her claim was solely because Middlebrooks was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton 25 years earlier. Habba argued that Judge Canon would be more impartial to Trump, despite Canon being recently appointed to the bench by Trump.  

Recall a few weeks ago Judge Canon’s wild interference with the Mar-a-Lago classified document case was slammed by the 11th Federal Circuit Court. The Circuit ruled Canon had no jurisdiction over the case and improperly interfered on Trump’s behalf. 

Because Habba could not demonstrate any iota of partiality by Judge Middlebrooks, the case remained with Middlebrooks through its recent conclusion. 

This lawsuit highlights what I believe are the true aims of Trump’s perpetual stream of lawsuits — grounds to perpetuate baseless claims to his supporters and a means of raising money. 

First, this case was filed after the statute of limitations for such a case expired. This was no accident — a litigant with an intent to prevail would have filed a timely suit. 

Second, the 118 pages comprised of 527 paragraphs of the complaint, once amended, were random insertions of Trump social media posts and quotes from rallies. Despite the volume of Trump rantings and ravings, no cogent arguments nor evidence supporting Trump’s claims were provided. This case was not about presenting viable claims. 

Judge Middlebrooks in fact stated, “Plaintiff cannot state a RICO claim without two predicate acts, and after two attempts, he has failed to plausible allege even one.”    

Third, Trump won the 2016 election. Rigging by Clinton and others must have been either ineffective or false — even if true, is irrelevant. 

Finally, there was not a claim that Trump colluded with Russia leading up to the 2016 election. The Robert Mueller report was not directed at Trump, but at examining Russian interference, and took place after the election, not before.  

The Mueller team determined Russia interfered with the 2016 election using social media, and linked several Trump officials, like Paul Manafort, to colluding with Russia. Mueller’s investigation convicted or had gotten guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies, to include top Republicans and from known Russian spies. 

Judge Middlebrooks dismissed Trump’s lawsuit last September. 

In a scathing ruling, Middlebrooks wrote, “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 states a cognizable legal claim.” 

This lawsuit was never about making valid legal arguments. 

Middlebrooks concluded, “Mr. Trump’s deliberate use of a frivolous lawsuit for an improper purpose constitutes bad faith… Telltale signs: Provocative and boastful rhetoric, a political narrative carried over from rallies, attacks on political opponents and the news media, disregard for legal principles and precedent, and fundraising and payments to lawyers from political action committees, and when making a ruling is adverse, accusations of bias on the part of judges…”  

Judge Middlebrooks called Trump a “vexatious litigant” and last week ordered Trump and Habba to pay $937,989, plus $66,000 to a previous defendant, for using the courts as a political tool. 

Look for more massive sanctions against Trump, and Habba being disbarred.  

Will this $1 million fine stop Trump from abuse of the court system? Not a chance, so long as his loyal base clings to absurd conspiracies and pays Trump’s legal fees. 

Like the 61 failed claims alleging the 2020 election was stolen, this lawsuit was a fundraising opportunity, part of a continued strategy to portray Trump as a victim, and intended to fester anger and elicit emotion from Trump’s base.  

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the CFO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.

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