A federal judge fined former President Donald Trump and one of his top attorneys nearly $1 million on Thursday for filing a sprawling lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and other perceived political opponents “that should never have been filed.”
In his 46-page order, U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks of the Southern District of Florida stated that Trump, lead attorney Alina Habba, and Habba Madaio & Associates were jointly liable for $937,989 in the suit, which he dismissed in September.
“This case should never have been filed in the first place. Its inadequacy as a legal claim was obvious from the beginning. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it,” Middlebrooks wrote, adding that the suit was intended “for a political purpose.”
He then went on to explain why he believed Trump, not just his attorneys, was to blame.
“Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries. He is the mastermind behind strategic judicial abuse, and he cannot be viewed as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer. “He was well aware of the consequences of his actions,” Middlebrooks wrote. “As a result, I believe Mr. Trump and his lead counsel, Ms. Habba, should face sanctions.”
NBC News has reached out to Habba as well as a Trump spokesperson for comment.
In March, Trump filed a lawsuit alleging that in 2016, Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee at the time, and others orchestrated a “malicious conspiracy” to investigate his campaign’s ties to Russia, “destroying his life” and rigging the election in Clinton’s favour.
The initial complaint named a number of defendants, including former FBI Director James Comey and California Rep. Adam Schiff.
The sanctions were imposed on Thursday on behalf of 18 defendants who claimed in an October joint motion that Trump knowingly filed a “factually unsupported, and legally unwarranted suit.”
Defendants had requested approximately $1 million to cover their attorney fees and costs, according to Middlebrooks.
Middlebrooks’ order accused Trump and his attorneys of a “continuing pattern of misusing the courts” and cited a number of lawsuits filed by Trump. Among them were a defamation lawsuit filed against the Pulitzer Board last month, as well as multiple lawsuits filed against New York Attorney General Letitia James, who investigated and eventually sued Trump on allegations of bank, tax, and insurance fraud.
Middlebrooks claimed that such lawsuits undermined the rule of law, diverted resources away from “those who have suffered actual legal harm,” and painted judges as partisans.