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Trump declares he's interviewing law firms for his E. Jean Carroll appeal, and it's giving 'Apprentice' vibes

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump.David Becker/Getty Images
  • Donald Trump is shopping around for new law firms to represent him in his E. Jean Carroll appeal.

  • "I will make my decision soon!" Trump announced in a game show-like fashion on Truth Social.

  • Legal experts said it's common for people to use different lawyers on appeal.

Donald Trump appears to be treating his planned appeal in the second E. Jean Carroll defamation case like his former reality TV show, "The Apprentice."

The former president announced late Tuesday in a game show-like fashion on his social-media platform, Truth Social: "I am in the process, along with my team, of interviewing various law firms to represent me" in his appeal of the recent jury verdict that ordered him to pay a whopping $83.3 million to Carroll for defaming her.

In his post, Trump called the case "one of the most ridiculous and unfair Witch Hunts our Country has ever seen" as he again bashed US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who presided over the Manhattan trial, calling him "Trump hating" and a "bully."

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, promised that he would soon decide which law firm would represent him for his appeal in the case.

"This entire HOAX is a disgrace to our American System of Justice. Any lawyer who takes a TRUMP CASE is either 'CRAZY,' or a TRUE AMERICAN PATRIOT. I will make my decision soon!" Trump said in the post.

Attorney Alina Habba was the lead attorney representing Trump in Carroll's second defamation trial against the former president, along with her law partner Michael Madaio at Habba Madaio & Associates, this month.

Joe Tacopina, a more experienced defense attorney, worked alongside Habba and Madaio as he led Trump's defense in a separate trial from Carroll last year, which ended in a $5 million jury verdict that found Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation. Tacopina withdrew from Trump's legal team shortly before the second trial began.

That left Habba in charge of defending Trump for his second trial, which resulted in a considerably higher jury verdict. While Kaplan appeared to respect Tacopina even as he frequently ruled against Trump — once even calling him, on the record, "a heck of a good lawyer" — Habba repeatedly frustrated Kaplan during the later trial. The judge rebuked her at least 14 times in a single day over basic law and courtroom procedures.

Even though Trump is shopping around for new attorneys to represent him in his appeal of the massive verdict, Habba is still "very much representing President Trump," a spokesperson for Habba told Business Insider on Wednesday.

"Bringing in an appellate specialist is common practice in litigation and comparing a trial lawyer and an appellate lawyer is similar to comparing a brain surgeon and a heart surgeon," the spokesperson said.

Alina Habba, left, and Michael Madaio, attorneys for former president Donald Trump, in Midtown Manhattan on May 9, 2022.
Alina Habba, left, and Michael Madaio, attorneys for former president Donald Trump.Matthew Cronin / Insider

Trump previously used Habba's firm for appeals

Legal experts agreed, telling Business Insider that it's common for people to use different lawyers on appeal.

"It's totally normal, indeed expected, that a client who needs to appeal on the losing end of things, would want a fresh set of eyes to reevaluate any issues on appeal," Mark Bederow, a criminal defense lawyer and former Manhattan prosecutor, said.

But Trump has used Habba's law firm in earlier appeals related to the case.

Carroll's defamation lawsuit was first filed in 2019, after Trump called her a liar when she accused him of sexual abuse, and bounced around appeals courts in New York and Washington, DC, for years as lawyers and judges vexed over questions of whether Trump could be held liable in a civil lawsuit for statements he made while serving as president.

In a high-stakes appellate court hearing in October, which Business Insider attended, Madaio argued before a three-judge panel that Trump should have immunity in the lawsuit.

Judge Kaplan had previously ruled that Trump waived immunity because he failed to raise it as a defense for three years, and because his denials of Carroll's accusations about a sexual assault that happened in the 1990s weren't related to his role as president anyway.

Alina Habba Donald Trump
Attorney Alina Habba and former President Donald Trump.AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Habba did not personally attend the appellate hearing. Carroll, who did attend, was represented in the proceedings by Joshua Matz, a former Supreme Court clerk who works at Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, the same law firm that represented her in both trials.

The appellate court ultimately upheld Kaplan's ruling and allowed the lawsuit to proceed.

Neama Rahmani, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, explained that appellate lawyers "have a different skill set" like "looking for legal errors rather than arguing to a jury."

Trump, Rahmani said, "probably realizes that he lost the second Carroll trial so badly in part due to Alina Habba's limited trial experience and that he needs experienced appellate counsel."

"The question is," he said, "are any of them willing to take on an appeal they will likely lose?"

The first of Carroll's trials against Trump was for a lawsuit that had been filed in 2022 and moved more quickly because it was over statements made after he had left the presidency. Judge Kaplan said that the second trial could not re-litigate elements already decided in the first trial, frustrating Trump and his lawyers who sought to discredit Carroll in front of a second jury. The judge, conscious of Trump's intent to appeal the second trial results, told as much to Trump in the courtroom before he testified.

"It is a very well-established legal principle in this country that prevents do-overs by disappointed litigants," the judge said.

Meanwhile, Bederow called it "almost unfathomable" that any attorney would willingly represent Trump "knowing that he is an uncontrollable client."

"He's going to do whatever he wants," Bederow said of Trump. "He's going to make a spectacle. He's going to storm out of the courtroom in the middle of proceedings, which is just bonkers."

"And the reality is everyone, especially lawyers, who touches his legal proceedings," he said, "tends to end up diminished in some capacity — humiliated, indicted, potentially imprisoned, ridiculed."

Read the original article on Business Insider