By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lawyer from Donald Trump declared Monday a possible conflict of interest involving the judge who oversaw E. Jean CarrollThe writer’s recent defamation trial could justify the annulment of the $83.3 million award awarded to the writer.
In a letter filed in Manhattan federal court, the lawyer Alina Habba cited a Jan. 27 New York Post article discussing U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s alleged past working relationship with Carroll’s attorney. Roberta Kaplanwho is not related.
Both worked for about two years concurrently at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in the early 1990s, before Judge Kaplan was appointed to the federal bench in 1994.
The article cited an unnamed former partner of Paul Weiss who said that Roberta Kaplan sought distinction, as did all associates, and that Justice Kaplan had been “like her mentor.”
Habba said this “particularly concerning” case could warrant a new trial on liability and damages, that the judge’s “openly hostile” treatment of Trump’s side and “preferential” treatment of Trump’s side Carroll might also argue.
Trump plans to appeal last Friday’s $83.3 million verdict, which stems from his denials in June 2019 that he raped Carroll in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s.
Judge Kaplan’s office did not immediately respond to an after-hours request for comment.
Spokespeople for Carroll and Roberta Kaplan did not immediately respond to similar inquiries, but a spokesperson told the Post that no conflict existed. Paul Weiss also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Habba’s letter cited, among other things, the Code of Conduct for American Judges.
The code states that judges must disqualify themselves from cases where their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including where “an attorney with whom the judge previously practiced law has during the course of that association practiced as an attorney regarding the case “.
Carroll’s $83.3 million verdict included $18.3 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive damages.
Last May, another jury awarded $5 million to the former Elle magazine columnist, finding Trump liable for a similar October 2022 defamation and sexual abuse.
Trump is appealing this verdict. The first jury’s findings were binding on the second trial, leaving the jury to focus solely on damages.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Stephen Coates)