Donald Trump’s firebrand attorney Alina Habba claims a possible conflict of interest between the judge in the E. Jean Carroll trial and her lawyer could lead to overturning the $83.3 million verdict.
Habba filed a letter in federal court late on Monday claiming Judge Lewis Kaplan had been ‘like a mentor’ to attorney Roberta Kaplan when they worked at the same law firm.
The pair worked at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison together in the early 1990s, before Judge Kaplan was appointed to the federal bench in 1994.
Habba also mentioned a New York Post article quoting an unnamed former Paul Weiss partner who said Roberta Kaplan sought to distinguish herself, like all associates, and Judge Kaplan had been ‘like her mentor.’
Habba said this ‘particularly concerning’ matter could justify a new trial on liability and damages, which the judge’s ‘overtly hostile’ treatment of Trump’s side and ‘preferential’ treatment of Carroll’s side could also support.
Donald Trump’s firebrand attorney Alina Habba claims a possible conflict of interest between the judge in the E. Jean Carroll trial and her lawyer could lead to overturning the $83.3miillion verdict
Habba filed a letter in federal court late on Monday claiming Judge Lewis Kaplan had been ‘like a mentor’ to attorney Roberta Kaplan when they worked at the same law firm
The former president’s legal team is already planning to appeal last Friday’s $83.3 million verdict, which stemmed from his June 2019 denials that he raped Carroll in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.
Judge Kaplan’s chambers did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours.
Habba’s letter cited among other things the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges.
The code says judges shall disqualify themselves from cases where their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including when ‘a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter.’
Habba has claimed she was unaware that Judge Lewis Kaplan and Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan – who are not related – worked together in the early 1990s, with the judge serving as her ‘mentor’, reports the New York Post.
‘It was never disclosed. It’s insane and so incestuous,’ Habba said, arguing their alleged close relationship was never disclosed and she only became aware of it after the conclusion of the case.
Habba continued: ‘This is news to us. We are going to include this in our appeal and take appropriate measures. The fact it wasn’t disclosed is an ethics violation.’
The allegations of a conflict of interest were bolstered by an anonymous former Weiss partner, who reportedly claimed Roberta Kaplan – a junior associate – made an extra effort to stand out to the managing partners.
‘Lew was like her mentor,’ they claimed.
Roberta Kaplan (right with Carroll after the verdict) worked at the same firm as Judge Lewis Kaplan for two years in the 1990s
Former President Trump’s legal team are set to appeal his stunning $83.3 million defamation lawsuit loss to writer E. Jean Carroll, arguing there was a conflict of interest between Carroll’s lawyer and the judge presiding over the case
On Friday, a jury awarded Carroll (pictured center, with her legal team after their win) over $60 million more than she was seeking for Trump’s scathing remarks on her allegations that he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. Trump has maintained he never met her
Before becoming a founding partner at law firm Kaplan, Keckler & Fink in 2016, Roberta Kaplan worked alongside the judge at Paul, Weiss Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison in Manhattan.
She began at the firm in 1992, according to her LinkedIn, where Judge Kaplan was a partner until he was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994.
In a statement to the Post, representative for Roberta Kaplan, Zak Sawyer, denied there was any conflict of interest and said the two barely knew each other.
‘They overlapped for less than two years in the early 1990s at a large law firm when he was a senior partner and she was a junior associate and she never worked for him,’ he said.
Judge Lewis Kaplan, who clashed with Trump’s legal team numerous times in the fiery trial, was allegedly a ‘mentor’ for Roberta Kaplan back in the early 1990s
Roberta Kaplan (pictured) crossed paths with Lewis Kaplan at a Manhattan law firm for two years from 1992 to 1994. A representative for the attorney denied any conflict of interest, and said ‘she never worked for him’
Attorney Roberta Kaplan (left) embraces E. Jean Carroll (right) as they leave Manhattan Federal Court on January 18, 2024 in New York City
Judge Kaplan clashed with Trump’s legal team on numerous occasions in the fiery defamation trial, including threatening to ‘lock up’ Habba as she continuously interrupted proceedings.
The defamation trial concluded in dramatic fashion on Friday, as a jury awarded Carroll over $60 million more in damages than she was anticipating.
A civil court jury last year found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll in a Manhattan department store, with his comments after the decision leading to the defamation trial that ended this week.
Trump was ordered to pay the sum as he accused Carroll of lying when she accused him of sexually assaulting her, and has consistently insisted that he never even met her.
The huge damages handed down on Friday came as a surprise even to Carroll, who broke down in tears and embraced her legal team as she won tens of millions more than expected.
Carroll, and her lawyers Kaplan and Shawn Crowley, glanced excitedly at each other as the judge queried what the ‘m’ on the jury’s verdict form signified.
‘Million,’ the foreman replied.
She and her legal team then composed themselves as the judge wrapped up the proceedings – while Trump’s legal team looked stunned and stoney-faced.
The author broke down in tears and hugged her attorneys as the ruling was handed down (seen in a court artist’s depiction on Friday)
As the decision came in, Trump was already en route to the airport, as jetted to Nevada for his next campaign event in the Republican primaries – while continuing to paint the legal cases against him, including Carrolls, as politically motivated.
The former president has already vowed to appeal the verdict and called the case a ‘Biden Directed Witch Hunt.’
Taking to Truth Social after the verdict, Trump declared that the trial was evidence that there is ‘no longer Justice in America.’
He derided the ruling as ‘absolutely ridiculous’, adding: ‘Our Judicial System is Broken and Unfair!’
‘I fully disagree with both verdicts, and will be appealing this whole Biden Directed Witch Hunt focused on me and the Republican Party,’ he continued.
‘Our Legal System is out of control, and being used as a Political Weapon. They have taken away all First Amendment Rights. THIS IS NOT AMERICA!’ He did not provide evidence that President Biden directed Carroll’s decision to seek monetary damages after Trump called her a liar and a ‘whack job.’
He followed up with another furious post later Friday evening. ‘There is no longer Justice in America. Our Judicial System is Broken and Unfair!’ he posted.
Trump blasted the verdict minutes after the jury hit him with an $83.3 million damage award
Donald Trump’s defense attorney Alina Habba said she was ‘proud’ to defend the former president as tore into the justice system following the $83.3million E. Jean Carroll verdict
As her client tore into the verdict from a runway, Habba issued a scathing rebuke of the trial from the steps of the courthouse, tearing into the justice system that she sees as being ‘weaponized.’
The lawyer said her client is being targeted because he is leading in the polls, and raised a number of alleged issues with the trial – the day before she says she became aware of the alleged ‘conflict of interest.’
Habba, who has defended Trump in multiple New York cases, told the media she wasn’t allowed to bring in evidence and claimed one of her witnesses was paid by the law firm of Carroll’s attorney.
‘I’m not having any second thoughts representing President Trump’, Habba told journalists in an impassioned speech as she walked out of Manhattan Federal Court, moments after the damages were read out in court.
‘It is the proudest thing I could ever do,’ she added.
‘I have sat on trial after trial for months in this state… and now we see what you get in New York.
‘I am so proud to stand with President President Trump. But I am not proud to stand with what I saw in that courtroom.
‘Before I walked into court, that judge decided that every single defense President Trump had, we were not allowed to raise in front of the jury.
‘It is in writing and I encourage the journalists, the real journalists to take a minute to look at his orders.’