Trump lawyer alleges conflict of interest in E. Jean Carroll defamation case News
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Trump lawyer alleges conflict of interest in E. Jean Carroll defamation case

A defense lawyer for former US President Donald Trump filed a letter in US District Court on Monday that argued a judge in a recent defamation lawsuit should have recused himself from the case. The letter stated that Judge Lewis Kaplan had previous working relationships with author E. Jean Carroll’s lead counsels, and he showed them “preferential treatment.” If true, the accusation may call into question the $83.3 million verdict awarded to Carroll.

Alina Habba filed the letter after the publication of a New York Post article in which an unnamed source stated that Judge Kaplan had a previous “mentor type” relationship with the plaintiff’s lead counsel, Roberta Kaplan (no relation). The unnamed source stated they worked as a partner at the same law firm and knew of the close relationship.

Habba argued that Judge Kaplan should have disclosed his previous working relationship with Roberta Kaplan before the trial. She cited 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) as the main grounds for his recusal. The section states, “a judge… shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality may be questioned.” Additionally, Habba cites Canon 3(C) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which states that judges should disqualify themselves if one of the counsels is a previous colleague.

Roberta Kaplan responded with her own letter filed with the court. She stated that the New York Post article mischaracterized her relationship with Judge Kaplan and that the accusations were “utterly baseless.” The letter detailed the small time period in which the two worked at the same “large” law firm and the different roles they filled. Roberta Kaplan also called the timing of the article and Habba’s letter into question. She stated that Habba knew of the alleged conflict of interest but waited until after the trial concluded to “[push] a false narrative of judicial bias.”

Habba answered Robborta Kaplan’s letter on Tuesday. She stated her letter was not an accusation and merely an inquiry into the validity of the New York Post article.

Trump and his legal team attempted to delay the defamation trial brought by writer E. Jean Carrol. However, an appeals court rejected his request, and the district court found him liable. The jury awarded Carroll $18.3 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive damages. Trump is expected to file a motion for a new trial.