Ann Turner
January 28, 2024

Judge in Trump case threatens to jail attorney Alina Habba for courtroom conduct

In a recent high-profile defamation trial, tensions ran high in a New York courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, overseeing columnist E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, threatened to jail Trump's attorney, Alina Habba, for courtroom interruptions.

The trial, centered around Carroll's allegations of sexual abuse by Trump in the 1990s and his subsequent denials in 2019, has been marked by heated exchanges and dramatic moments.

Carroll, seeking over $24 million in damages, accused Trump of defaming her by denying the abuse. The confrontation between Kaplan and Habba adds another layer of intensity to this already contentious case.

The Early Proceedings and Disruption

The incident with Habba occurred early on Friday, just minutes after the day's proceedings began and before the jury was present. Trump's legal team, eager to present their defense, clashed with Kaplan over a particular slide they wished to show. This slide aimed to dispute Carroll's claim that Trump's denials directly caused her harm, focusing on a "five-hour gap" between her accusation surfacing and Trump's first statement.

However, Kaplan disallowed the slide, as it contained tweets sent to Carroll before Trump's denial and was not previously entered into evidence. Despite the judge's ruling, Habba continued to argue the point, prompting Kaplan's stern warning. Kaplan told Habba, “You are on the verge of spending some time in the lockup. Now sit down,” a clear sign of the escalating tension in the courtroom.

This was not an isolated incident. Throughout the trial, Habba and Kaplan have frequently sparred, with Kaplan often finding fault with Habba's courtroom conduct. The dynamic between the judge and Trump's attorney has been a notable aspect of the proceedings, contributing to the overall charged atmosphere of the trial.

Trump's Presence and Past Verdict

Adding to the drama, Trump himself, not required to be present, attended the trial and left the courtroom just as Carroll's lawyer began closing remarks. His presence underscored the high stakes of the lawsuit, in which Carroll seeks significant damages for what she describes as defamatory statements denying her allegations of sexual abuse.

Last year, Trump was found liable for sexual abuse in a separate case brought by Carroll and had to award her $5 million. This verdict forms a crucial backdrop to the current trial, as Carroll now seeks an additional $24 million in damages. The jury began deliberations on the damages on Friday afternoon, following the completion of closing remarks.

The trial was not without its challenges. A juror's illness caused delays, and Kaplan had previously threatened to remove Trump from the courtroom for disruptive behavior. These incidents paint a picture of a trial fraught with conflict and disruption, a reflection of the high-profile nature of the case and the personalities involved.

Judge Kaplan's Firm Stance

Judge Kaplan's firm handling of the proceedings has been a defining feature of the trial. His willingness to confront and admonish Habba, and even threaten to remove Trump, demonstrates his commitment to maintaining order in his courtroom. Kaplan's approach has been crucial in navigating the complex and often heated nature of the trial.

Trump's legal team has accused Kaplan of bias, a claim that adds another layer of complexity to the proceedings. Despite these accusations, Kaplan has continued to preside over the trial, maintaining a strict adherence to legal protocols and courtroom etiquette.

The frequent clashes between Habba and Kaplan have become a hallmark of this trial. Kaplan's scolding of Habba and his threats to maintain order highlight the challenges faced in managing high stakes, emotionally charged legal battles.

The Trial's Broader Context

The defamation trial against Trump is more than just a legal proceeding; it is a public reckoning of allegations that have been part of the national conversation for years. Carroll's accusations and Trump's denials have been widely discussed, and the trial brought these issues into a formal legal setting.

The lawsuit represents a significant moment in the ongoing dialogue about sexual abuse and accountability. Carroll's pursuit of legal redress, despite the high-profile nature of the defendant and the intense scrutiny of the case, speaks to broader themes of justice and the challenges faced by individuals making such accusations.

The amount sought in damages, over $24 million, underscores the severity of the allegations and the impact Carroll claims to have suffered due to Trump's denials. This figure is a key element of the trial, representing the tangible consequences of the alleged defamation.

Conclusion and Jury Deliberations

As the jury began deliberations on the damages on Friday, the culmination of the trial's dramatic and contentious proceedings drew near, with tempers flaring into almost catastrophic heights.

  • U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan oversees the defamation trial against former President Trump, brought by E. Jean Carroll.
  • Kaplan threatened to jail Trump's attorney, Alina Habba, for interruptions in the courtroom.
  • The trial features heated exchanges and a focus on a disputed slide showing tweets to Carroll.
  • Carroll sought over $24 million in damages for Trump's 2019 denials of sexual abuse.
  • Trump attended the trial and faced previous disruption warnings from Kaplan.
  • The jury began deliberations on damages after closing remarks and delivered a whopping multi-million damage award to Carroll later the same day.
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