The recent $83.3 million defamation award to E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump has sparked controversy, with attention now turning to potential conflicts of interest involving the presiding judge, Lewis A. Kaplan. The judge’s unusual orders during the trial limited Trump’s ability to present a robust defense, raising questions about the fairness of the proceedings. It has come to light that Judge Kaplan was once a mentor to Roberta Kaplan, E. Jean Carroll’s lawyer, during their time working together at a law firm in the 1990s. While not related, the mentor-mentee relationship and other connections between the judge and the legal team may constitute a significant conflict of interest.
Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, has raised concerns about the judge’s failure to disclose these relationships, emphasizing that such conflicts should have been revealed before allowing the case to proceed. According to legal standards, a judge must disqualify themselves if their impartiality could reasonably be questioned, especially in cases involving past professional associations. The potential mentorship and officiation at Roberta Kaplan’s wedding add layers of complexity to the situation.
Habba, in a letter filed on Monday, called on Judge Kaplan to confirm or deny the reported associations. The lack of disclosure regarding these connections could have implications for the case, including the possibility of seeking a new trial on issues of liability and damages. The revelations add fuel to the argument that the legal system may be biased against Trump, contributing to the perception that it has been weaponized for political purposes.
Already planning to appeal the defamation decision due to perceived hostility from the judge, Trump’s defense team sees these new revelations as crucial to their appeal. The apparent preferential treatment towards Carroll’s counsel and the judge’s demeanor throughout the trial further underscore concerns about the fairness of the legal proceedings. This development is likely to reinforce Trump’s claims that the legal system has been used as a tool against him, resonating strongly with his supporters and potentially influencing public opinion on the matter.