Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

    E. Jean Carroll judge bench-slaps Trump’s attorney 14 times over basic lawyering in a single day of testimony

    Donald Trump attends the E. Jean Carroll defamation trial in New York with attorney Alina Habba.

    Wednesday was the first day of testimony in Trump’s second E. Jean Carroll defamation trial in NY.A fed-up Judge Lewis Kaplan rebuked Trump lawyer Alina Habba at least 14 times throughout the day.”Sit down,” he told her at one point. When she asked for a sidebar, he tersely responded, “No.”

    Donald Trump did not seem at all happy during E. Jean Carroll’s second sex assault defamation trial on Wednesday, often crossing his arms, glowering, and muttering complaints from his seat at the defense table.

    But lead lawyer Alina Habba may have had an even worse time in that Manhattan courtroom, where Carroll hopes that a federal jury will hit Trump with monetary damages high enough to finally “make him stop” defaming her.

    Throughout the day, and with Carroll herself on the stand, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan rebuked Habba from the bench, often schooling her in basic law in mini-lectures that showed mounting impatience.

    At one point, the judge tersely interrupted the lawyer, telling her, “sit down.”

    Here, in chronological order, are fourteen times Habba was taken to task on Wednesday by the fed-up judge.

    1. “I make the rulings here, not the lawyers”

    “The last I heard, Ms. Habba, I do not need announcements from counsel on what they intend to do,” Kaplan instructed, when Habba interrupted Carroll’s direct testimony by standing up and claiming that her opponents “opened the door” on an issue that she would, as a result, address during cross-examination later.

    “And I make the rulings here, not the lawyers,” Kaplan added. When Habba tried to press her point, Kaplan told her, succinctly, “Sit down.”

    “OK,” Habba said, sitting.

    2. “We’re going to do it my way in this courtroom”

    Habba began an afternoon of cross-examination by suddenly confronting Carroll with her October, 2022, pre-trial deposition.

    “I need a transcript to be able to work with this,” Kaplan told Habba.

    “Your honor, it’s on the screen,” Habba told the judge, who, for a second time, asked for a hard-copy transcript.

    “Now look, Ms. Habba,” the judge said, as her staff continued scrambling to get him a hard copy. “We’re going to do it my way in this courtroom, and that’s all there is to it.

    “Now you give me the page and line number you want me to focus on, without reading it, and then I’ll look at it,” he said, with the strained patience of a high school teacher presiding over an unruly mock trial.

    “And then I’ll see if there’s an objection or not, and then we’ll see where we go from there,” the judge added.

    Habba attempted several more false starts with that line of questioning, apparently trying to impugn Carroll’s credibility to the jury by pointing out that the writer had expressed potentially contradictory opinions on how much she liked living in the state of Montana in the 1980s.

    The judge repeatedly halted Habba for failing to follow the proper procedure of introducing a deposition, and she ultimately moved on.

    Former President Donald Trump and Attorney Alina Habba at Trump National Golf Club in August in Bedminster, New Jersey.

    3. Elaine’s restaurant, where it’s still hard to get a seat

    Habba, a work-a-day New Jersey attorney until meeting Trump a few years ago at his private golf club in Bedminster, then launched into an attack on Carroll’s star-studded Manhattan social life in the 1980s.

    “Elaine’s is a very popular restaurant, isn’t it,” Habba asked Carroll, of the celebrity-packed Upper East Side bar where she’d been a regular. “It’s not only popular, it’s incredibly hard to get into, correct?” Habba asked.

    “Ms. Habba,” the judge interrupted. “It hasn’t existed for years, if I’m not mistaken.” Elaine’s closed in 2011.

    “Correct,” Habba answered. “We’re talking about the 1990s and ’80s.” But the judge reminded Habba she’d been speaking about Elaine’s in the present tense, including by asking about it being hard to get into.

    “That may be on account of it being closed,” the judge deadpanned.

    4. “Neither do I”

    Carroll, still on cross-examination, was asked by Habba to explain the title of her first book, a 1985 collection of essays called, “Female Difficulties: Sorority Sisters, Rodeo Queens, Frigid Women, Smut Stars, and Other Modern Girls.”

    Habba was apparently trying to show that Carroll had once written about “smut stars,” or pornographic actors, as if that would somehow make her immune to the onslaught of sexual threats that filled her inbox after outing Trump as a sexual predator.

    “When I originally asked you what this book was about, how did you describe it?” Habba asked. “Objection,” interrupted Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, no relation to the judge.

    “What’s the objection?” the judge asked.

    “I don’t know what she’s talking about,” Carroll’s lawyer answered.

    “Neither do I,” the judge responded.

    Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, left, leaves Manhattan federal court, Thursday, May 4, 2023, in New York.

    5. “If you want to make representations, you can be called as a witness”

    “I don’t know how the White House works,” Carroll said, after Habba asked if she knew if there is “a communications team at the White House.”

    “I’ll represent to you that there is a communications — ” Habba began, before the judge interrupted her again to point out that a lawyer’s job, in questioning a witness, is to ask questions, not state supposed facts.

    “Counsel, we’re not going to have any representations,” the judge told the lawyer,

    “It goes to my next question,” Habba protested.

    “I don’t care what it goes to,” the judge told her. “We’re not going to have any representations. If you want to make representations, you can be called as a witness.”

    6. “Guess what? You may not read from a document that’s not in evidence.”

    “Do you recall this tweet dated June 21, 2019,” Habba asked Carroll. “Can we please pull it up?” the lawyer told her staffers.

    “It states, ‘You’re a pathetic, ugly old hag,'” Habba began, reading from the tweet, which was issued soon after the publication of the New York magazine story in which Carroll first publicly accused Trump of raping her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.

    Habba was trying to show that the tweet’s timing proves Carroll was being harassed by Trump supporters hours before Trump himself attacked her as a liar.

    “Your honor,” Carroll’s lawyer interrupted. “It’s not in evidence.”

    “Let’s take a break right here,” the judge said, his voice angry. “What exhibit is this, Ms. Habba?”

    But Habba was unable to give him an exhibit number, as, indeed, the tweet was not in evidence.

    “I’m trying to get it in, your Honor. I have to ask about it,” Habba told the judge.

    “Guess what?” the judge responded, now clearly angry. “You may not read from a document that’s not in evidence.”

    “Sure,” Habba responded, sounding angry herself.

    The judge called a break, “during which,” he told Habba, “you should refresh your memory about how it is you get a document into evidence.”

    7. “Why don’t you do it in the normal way?”

    After the break, Habba was reprimanded by the judge for referring to the contents of a document not yet in evidence while questioning Carroll about the same tweet.

    “I’m sorry,” the judge interrupted Habba. We’re just not going to go into the contents of the documents.”

    “I’m not,” Habba protested.

    “Well, you just did,” the judge noted. “Your last two questions were precisely that. Yes indeed.”

    The judge then walked Habba through the proper way to question Carroll about the tweet.

    “I recommend that you show it to her and ask her if she recognizes it. And if she does, then you ask her what it is, and she will tell you what kind of document it is, and we’ll go from there.”

    “Fine, your honor,” Habba answered.

    But midway through this process, Habba got hung up again.

    “It should be pre-marked,” with an exhibit number, the judge scolded of the tweet. “Why don’t you do it in the normal way, get it ready overnight, and do it appropriately?”

    Attorney Alina Habba is joined by Former President Donald Trump as she speaks during a news conference in New York.

    8. “I ruled on that in the sidebar”

    During a sidebar discussion — a conversation between lawyers and the judge outside of earshot of the jurors — Kaplan told Habba that she was not to ask questions about the “believability” of Trump’s sexual assault on Carroll.

    After all, as Carroll’s lawyer noted, suggesting the attack was unbelievable contradicts the verdict of the prior jury, which found Trump liable for sexual abuse.

    But after the sidebar, Habba proceeded to ask Carroll about precisely that — the believability of the attack.

    “The answer is stricken,” Kaplan said, interrupting. “The jury will disregard it. I ruled at that at the sidebar, and you just ignored the ruling.”

    9. You don’t “introduce” evidence that’s already in evidence

    “Your honor,” Habba said, toward the end of Wednesday’s testimony. “I would like to introduce the next exhibit, which has been identified as Defense Exhibit 11.”

    “Is this already in?” the judge asked, meaning already in evidence.

    “Yes, your honor,” Habba answered.

    “Then you don’t have to introduce it,” the judge corrected her. “You have to show the exhibit that’s in.”

    10. “Argumentative and inappropriate”

    “That’s a lot of appearances for somebody who doesn’t want to attract attention, isn’t it, Ms. Carroll?”

    Habba was referencing the four times Carroll said she went on TV to promote the book that accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s, “What Do We Need Men For?”

    “Sustained,” the judge said, when Carroll’s lawyer objected. “That’s argumentative and inappropriate.”

    E. Jean Carroll leaves Manhattan federal court for the second defamation trial against former US president and 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump.

    11. “May we have a sidebar, please?”

    In a sidebar conversation, the judge barred Habba from raising questions about an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in which Carroll said the public misunderstands rape as “sexy.”

    “We’re not going there,” the judge told the parties in the sidebar.

    Moments later, Habba asked to revisit the topic.

    “Your honor, may we have a sidebar, please?”

    “No,” the judge said, curtly.

    “OK,” Habba responded.

    12. “Don’t even start”

    On direct examination, Carroll had testified that, as a result of the death threats she has received, she purchased bullets for a gun she inherited from her father, and keeps the gun by her bed.

    “Do you have a license for that gun?” Habba asked Carroll.

    “No,” Carroll answered.

    “Do you still not have a license for that gun?” Habba asked.

    “I still do not have a license,” Carroll answered.

    “Are you aware that you have to have a license—” Habba began to ask. Attorneys aren’t supposed to ask witnesses to draw legal conclusions.

    “Don’t even start,” the judge interrupted.

    13. “You’re running the repeat key”

    “Didn’t you expect that people who hate President Trump would be supportive of your accusation?” Habba asked Carroll.

    “Objection, your honor,” Carroll’s lawyer interrupted.

    “Sustained,” the judge responded, noting that Habba was, by that point, going over already well-tilled ground.

    “You’re running the repeat key too often, Ms. Habba,” the judge scolded. “Move on.”

    “Sure,” Habba answered.

    14. “We’re way outside”

    At the very end of the day Wednesday, Habba was allowed to ask Carroll about her friendships and associations with “anti-Trump” personalities, including comedian Kathy Griffin, author Mary Trump, and political commentator George Conway.

    “He explained what a lawsuit would consist of, because I really didn’t know,” Carroll said of Conway, who had advised her on suing Trump.

    “Who is George Conway, Ms. Carroll?” Habba said, her voice dripping with derision.

    “He is a formerly Republican lawyer. He is now an independent lawyer who does not like Donald Trump,” Carroll answered.

    “Has he been on TV speaking about your case the past couple days?” Habba asked.

    “I haven’t seen him, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” Carroll answered.

    “Was he married to President Trump’s campaign person, Ms. Carroll? Ms. Kellyanne Conway?” Habba asked.

    “Objection,” Carroll’s lawyer, Kaplan, interrupted. “We’re way outside,” she complained. During cross-examination, it’s improper for a lawyer to ask questions outside the scope of the direct examination.

    “It’s not outside,” Habba protested.

    “Yes,” the judge told her. “Of course it is.”

    “Your honor,” Habba protested again. “May I put my reasoning—”

    “I don’t need to hear your reasoning,” the judge cut her off.

    And at that, the judge called a break until Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

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