Former president Donald Trump filed a motion to disqualify the federal judge overseeing his freewheeling lawsuit against former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The filing takes aim at U.S. District Judge Donald Marsh Middlebrooks. This is the second time the ex-president has tried to have the judge – who was appointed to the Southern District of Florida court by then-president Bill Clinton in early 1997 – removed from the case.
Middlebrooks rejected that earlier effort in April 2022. Trump’s attorneys say their 10-page August filing is based on entirely different grounds.
“Plaintiff and his counsel seek disqualification because of the politically charged language in the Court’s recent opinions and the extrajudicial factual research performed by the Court, at its own initiative, in coming to those decisions,” the newest filing reads. “Regardless of whether the Court is actually biased against a party or its counsel, such instances provide the appearance of bias. Disqualification is especially important when the case is in the public eye, as is this one.”
The 45th president’s underlying lawsuit was filed on March 24, 2022, and alleges that Clinton and others, “blinded by political ambition, orchestrated a malicious conspiracy to disseminate patently false and injurious information about Donald J. Trump and his campaign, all in the hopes of destroying his life, his political career and rigging the 2016 Presidential Election in favor of Hillary Clinton.”
Middlebrooks was chosen to oversee the case the same day it was filed. Trump’s attorneys filed their initial recusal motion arguing that the judge had a relationship with the defendant. Middlebrooks, in denying that first effort, said he had never met the Clintons and was actually chosen to be a judge by a bipartisan judicial selection commission that was itself appointed by the Sunshine State’s then-U.S. senators in the late 1990s.
Trump’s latest filing dispenses with that prior claim – instead arguing that the court’s record in the case is reason enough to boot the jurist from having any further involvement.
“In its recent decisions, the Court entered orders accepting Defendants’ narration of the ‘facts’ as true, without taking evidence or even holding a hearing, while entirely discounting President Trump’s allegations and punishing President Trump and his former counsel for exercising their First Amendment rights and pursuing viable legal remedies here and elsewhere,” the filing continues. “These orders even opined on the merits of ongoing cases in other jurisdictions and not before the Court. Accordingly, President Trump and his former counsel respectfully request that this Court disqualify itself from all future proceedings in this matter.”
The underlying lawsuit was actually dismissed in September 2022. In January, Middlebrooks ordered Trump to pay $1 million in sanctions after several defendants — including Hillary Clinton — alleged the legal controversy was fundamentally frivolous in nature.
Trump’s attorneys later filed an appeal of Middlebrooks’ dismissal before the 11th Circuit.
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