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Stormy Daniels ordered to pay Trump $293,052.33 in attorneys’ fees, costs, and sanctions

Stormy Daniels ordered to pay Trump $293,052.33 in attorneys’ fees, costs, and sanctions

Stormy defamation case ends in disaster … for her and her attorney Michael Avenatti

Stormy Daniels aka Stephanie Clifford has been ordered to pay Donald Trump $293,052.33 in attorneys’ fees, costs, and sanctions.

The Order (pdf.) is embedded at the bottom of this post.

The case arose out of Daniel’s failed lawsuit accusing Trump of defamation for suggesting that Daniels fabricated her claim that she was threatened by a man to leave Trump alone.

For background on the legal proceedings, see our prior post Trump asks Court to SLAPP Stormy Daniels with $341,559.50 in legal fees plus sanctions.

The Court threw out the lawsuit, finding Trump’s commentary was protected by the First Amendment.

It’s important that Trump moved to dismiss, and the court granted dismissal, under the Texas Anti-SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] Statute because that is where Daniels resided, even though the case was in California and Trump is a New Yorker. The court reasoned:

Under New York’s choice-of-law principles, the law of the situs of the injury generally applies to a tort lawsuit involving diverse parties. See Stoyanovskiy v. Amerada Hess Corp., 286 A.D.2d 727, 728 (2001). However, in this day and age, with the publication of statements in online fora, the tort of defamation often involves a plaintiff injured in several jurisdictions. For multistate defamation actions, where the situs of the injury may be in multiple jurisdictions, “New York applies the law of the state with the most significant interest in litigation,” which generally is the state where a plaintiff is domiciled. See Lee v. Bankers Trust Co., 166 F.3d 540, 545 (2d. Cir. 1999). Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that Ms. Clifford is a “resident of the State of Texas,” (Compl. ¶ 1), and conceded during argument on September 24, 2018 that Ms. Clifford is domiciled in Texas. (See Transcript of Proceedings at 11: 7.) Therefore, this Court applies Texas law to Plaintiff’s allegations of defamation and Defendant’s Special Motion To Dismiss/Strike. [footnote omitted]

So when the court threw out the lawsuit, it did so under the Anti-SLAPP statute, which grants the successful defendant attorney’s fees, subject to a submission of proof:

Having granted the Special Motion and denied Plaintiff leave to amend, the Court finally holds that Defendant is entitled to attorney’s fees. Texas law is unambiguous that “the TCPA requires anaward of ‘reasonable attorney’s fees’ to the successful movant.” Sullivan v. Abraham, 488 S.W.3d 294, 299 (Tex. 2016). “A ‘reasonable’ attorney’s fee ‘is one that is not excessive or extreme, but rather moderate or fair.’” Id. (quoting Garcia v. Gomez, 319 S.W.3d 638, 642 (Tex.2010)).

Trump just submitted his motion for attorney’s fees. (h/t Brad Heath Twitter)

He’s seeking $341,559.50 in legal fees plus sanctions. The full motion (pdf.) is embedded at the bottom of this post.

From the Court Order awarding the specific dollar amount of fees, costs and sanctions:

Having concluded that Mr. Trump is entitled to all four sets of attorneys’ fees and costs that he seeks, the Court next addresses whether Defendant’s request is reasonable under the lodestar method. This involves answering two related questions. First, are Defendant’s requested hourly rates per attorney reasonable? Second, are the hours expended per task by attorney reasonable? The  ourt addresses these questions in turn.

* * *

In reviewing the rates charged by Defendant’s attorneys, the Court agrees with Defendant that his attorneys are incredibly qualified, and that the law firm of Harder LLP has specific expertise in the fields of media and defamation law. (Mot. at 14-16.) The Court also is mindful of the fact that the instant litigation is unique in its nature and scope. It involves a defamation claim against the sitting President of the United States based on a tweet issued by the President from his personal Twitter account. (See Tr. of Proceedings at 11:8-15.) The President has used this Twitter account extensively, both during his campaign and afterwards. The litigation before this Court therefore impacts what the President may or may not say in a public forum.

Based on the unique nature of this litigation and the Court’s familiarity with the fees charged in this jurisdiction, the Court concludes that Defendant’s rate requests are reasonable. In similar First Amendment anti-SLAPP litigation involving highly qualified attorneys, a court in the Northern District of California held that experienced partners were entitled to between $880 and $995 per hour, senior associates were entitled to between $450 and $535 per hour, and junior associates were entitled to$355 per hour.

* * *

Having reviewed the billing records submitted by Defendant, the Court reduces the total amount in attorneys’ fees and costs that Defendant claims by 25%….

Defendant is entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs of $292,052.33, a 25% reduction of the total fees and costs claimed of 389,403.11.

* * *

While recognizing that some Texas courts have doubled attorneys’ fees to deter frivolous SLAPP litigation, the Court declines to impose significant additional sanctions here. Plaintiff is liable to Defendant for substantial attorneys’ fees, which is already a means to deter her from bringing SLAPP litigation in the future….

Moreover, Plaintiff is presently seeking to withdraw her other defamation claim that is before this Court, (see Notice of Motion And Motion To Amend Complaint in Stephanie Clifford v. Donald Trump et al., No. 2:18-cv-02217-SJO-FFM, ECF No. 91), and Plaintiff has not taken legal action against Defendant despite rhetorically hyperbolic statements that Defendant has made about Plaintiff in the recent past (see, e.g., Declaration of Michael Avenatti, Ex. 3, ECF No. 40-2.) Plaintiff’s unwillingness to resort to litigation in light of Defendant’s continuing use of rhetorical hyperbole suggests that Plaintiff is already being deterred from filing meritless defamation claims. To the extent that the TCPA requires this Court to impose sanctions against Plaintiff, the Court orders sanctions of $1,000. Plaintiff owes Defendant $293,052.33 in attorneys’ fees, costs, and sanctions.


Trump’s attorney Charles Harder declared total victory:

Michael Avenatti is trying to convince everyone he’s actually winning by losing:

Stormy Daniels v Trump – Order Awarding Trump Attorney Fees by Legal Insurrection on Scribd


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That’s one story which won’t make the CBS Evening News

    ROTONDARON in reply to Ulysses. | December 12, 2018 at 7:10 am

    “OK”…..Stormy….You have been making “bad choices”, all your life…..{ Bad “Career”, Bad, Attorney, Bad advice, “outing” President Trump…..& on it goes…..Now, on to the border wall issue! The American people, are the losers here, because of Liberal stupidity, & failure to deal with issues that are “horrendous”, to say the least: Human Trafficking, rape, murder, crime sprees, MS-13, Sanctuary cities, etc…..Where is this going?…..Nowhere under Liberal leadership! America…..

    Liberalism, & Progressive-ism, is slowly destroying our Republic, & our Democracy……America’s ignorant electorate, is totally responsible for this political debacle!

“Having reviewed the billing records submitted by Defendant, the Court reduces the total amount in attorneys’ fees and costs that Defendant claims by 25%”

That seems to be the main part. The other part is that the court didn’t think Daniels needed additional sanctions because she is already beating a full retreat. Sounds pretty fair to me.

While here in Texas we only allow our legislators to meet every other year to reduce the mischief they can accomplish, occasionally they do something right.

DouglasJBender | December 11, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Okay, get ready for some lengthy pole-barn-storming.

I recall once seeing a post that (paraphrased) went a little like: Donald Trump is the only man who slept with a porn star and she paid him.

Don’t be like CPL. Learn your contract law.

So, no response to Avenatti’s claims? Is Trump going to have to pay her 1.5M? If so, sounds to me that Avenatti’s right.

    That’s her ~claim~ that she’s entitled to $1.5mm. There’s no hearing, no order, no finding, no NOTHING. And, the likelihood is that Clifford is going to lose in that NDA litigation too, which she may then be subject to additional attorney’s fees to be paid to President Trump.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to rustyshamrock. | December 12, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Look at the good side of this, Stormy is probably already buying personal lube in large quantities, when this ends she will likely be a $5 a crack street walker begging for food, waving a “Work For Food” sign, and we all know what she means when she talks about work.

    What I want to know is when will Stormy and her pimp attorney be prosecuted for extortion?

Avenatti really is an idiot, isn’t he?

rustyshamrock- Always read the story before you comment, that way you won’t miss the part about her withdrawing her other suit.

    rustyshamrock in reply to floridaman. | December 11, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Yeah, I did. She is withdrawing her “other defamation suit”. Which doesn’t sound to me to be the sams as a “NDA” suit.

      Surely an NDA suit would be brought by him against her, so how could he have to pay her anything for it? At worst, if he loses, he gets nothing.

        rustyshamrock in reply to Milhouse. | December 11, 2018 at 5:47 pm

        You would think so, but he (Avenatti) was referring to Trump paying her 1.5M in “the main NDA case”. Perhaps that’s just the stupid part.

Good lawd, dat be a lot of money. Don’ know how she gon’ make dat much jis flash’n dem bodacious ta!

So she was paid $130,000 to sign an NDA to keep her quiet. Now Trump collects $293,052.33 after she violates the NDA contract. This was a legal contract to keep what was a consensual, mutually adulterous relationship. That $130,000 ended up costing her a lot of money in the end. Good work Avenatti!

    I wonder if she declared the 130 on her federal income tax return?

    tom_swift in reply to Pasadena Phil. | December 11, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    This was a legal contract to keep what was a consensual, mutually adulterous relationship.

    We have no idea what it was about.

    A public figure might well be interested in silencing salacious stories or rumors. Whether or not they’re true isn’t terribly relevant.

    You’re confusing to separate courses of litigation between the same parties that are unrelated to each other. The NDA suit has no common facts with the defamation suit, except that the parties are the same.

SOOOO, if Trump paid her off with campaign money surely he can just put that money back in his campaign and thats the end of the story right 😉

    Trump loaned his campaign $50 million (which has been written off and is not being repaid) according to the quickest source I could find. Aside from the purest of idiocy, why would he use campaign money for this?

    This is aside from the modern reinterpretation of campaign finance law where your campaign funds are campaign funds, and your personal funds are campaign funds, too.

At $20 a pop, that’s 19,470 lap dances.

Trump’s law firm was “Harder” than Stormy expected. 😉

That’s going to take an awful lot of DVDA to pay off.

Only Trump – and maybe John Gotti – could compel a refund from a prostitute.

Comanche Voter | December 11, 2018 at 7:30 pm

I don’t know whether Avenatti is correct in his calculations of who “won” and who “lost”. He says that Trump will owe old Horse Face $1.5 million on the non disclosure agreement. Is that what a court has ordred in a judgment–or is that what Avenatti hopes to get? As I recall Ms. Stormy was paid $300 K in a non disclosure agreement to keep her mouth shut. She got the $300K and then she opened her mouth. Under what legal theory is she entitled to a million and a half more?

It’s always interesting to read the level of ignorance and stupid on what’s supposed to be a conservative legal blog.

Let’s start with this from a person who pretends to be able to add and subtract in the right columns…
“So she was paid $130,000 to sign an NDA to keep her quiet. Now Trump collects $293,052.33 after she violates the NDA contract.”

No. That’s not right on two counts. First, no money goes to Duh Donald; it goes to his attorneys…maybe (see below). IF they’ve been paid, there’s no net to the serial adulterer. Second, this has nothing to do with an NDA. It all stems from a defamation suit. No linkage whatsoever.

Next, let’s look at the award for attorney fees…

1. will it survive an appeal?

2. is it collectable? This is a HARD question I don’t know the answer to. Is the award made under Texas law or not (seems that it is)? Texas is a hard place to collect a judgment.

3. generally, awards are VERY likely to be negotiated, and that’s ALWAYS down…never up.

4. the award is very likely subject to bankruptcy, which MAY mean it just goes away.

    “It’s always interesting to read the level of ignorance and stupid…”

    You must be kidding. Then again, you’re probably not kidding.

    – “no money goes to Duh Donald; it goes to his attorneys”

    Who do you think paid Trump’s attorneys to begin with? The award is awarded to Trump, not his lawyers.

    – “the award is very likely subject to bankruptcy, which MAY mean it just goes away”

    You think someone goes bankrupt and they keep everything they own? The process of bankruptcy is tedious, humiliating – and expensive. You think multi-billionaire Trump would rather take her measly 250k, or see her go through the process of bankruptcy? She’ll lose every dime she’s ever made up till now, save her ratty car and her bizarre award from the weirdos running the City of West Hollywood.

    You said it: It’s always interesting to read the level of ignorance and stupid on what’s supposed to be a conservative legal blog.

      If he’s already paid his lawyers (which I wouldn’t bet on), then yes, this money will go to him, in partial reimbursement. But it’s stupid to call that a profit; he’s only getting back (at most) 3/4 of what he paid them, so he’s making a huge net loss.

      And in Texas you get to keep quite a lot in bankruptcy. Unlimited homestead, for instance.

      “The process of bankruptcy is tedious, humiliating – and expensive.”

      As someone who helps clients through bankruptcy, you’re wrong on all counts. Depending on the form, it takes a few months, involves no time in court, and costs a few grand.

      The exclusions from the bankrupt’s estate are rather generous in Texas, and a person declaring bankruptcy can choose either Federal exemptions or state exemptions.

      Generally, unsecured debt (as this would be) is simply discharged. Completely. Ask a credit card company.

        I’m not wrong on any of it.

        If Whoremy goes bk, Trump’s lawyers could attempt to exempt the debt from discharge by claiming the debt is from a willful or malicious injury, fraud, breach of trust and the like.

        Let Whoremy hire lawyer$ to fight that issue in federal court. (She won’t be discharging those attorney fees – they’ll be paid in advance.)

        Karma is a bitch. Just when will it be hillary clinton’s turn?

        The exclusions from the bankrupt’s estate are rather generous in Texas, and a person declaring bankruptcy can choose either Federal exemptions or state exemptions.

        True. And with all candor, I DON’T practice in bankruptcy Court (although I occasionally sit on Creditor’s Committees on behalf of my clients). However I’m willing to make a bet that Clifford has a lot of assets that could NOT be protected by the Bankruptcy Court.

        The most interesting claim would be regarding her “persona” rights in the “Stormy Daniels” stage name. Trump could possibly end up owning that persona, and all the rights that go along with it (royalties, ongoing payments, publicity rights, etc…).

        I would find that hilarious.

          Ragspierre in reply to Chuck Skinner. | December 12, 2018 at 11:24 am

          And, like a lot of business entities, those would be worthless without the key person behind them.

          As a for-instance, many small businesses are organized as corporations. You CAN take the corporate entity as an asset, but without the actual producers behind it, it becomes a worthless shell. You MIGHT take accounts receivable at the time. Then you are done. No mas.

    Milhouse in reply to Ragspierre. | December 11, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    The award was made by a federal court in CA, using (its understanding of) Texas law (which it chose by applying its understanding of NY’s choice-of-law rules). Surely that means collection would proceed under federal law.

    The only linkage I made on the net proceeds were who paid whom how much and when. Trump wins on the net. Are you a complete idiot Rage Boy? Let me make it simpler. Trump’s estate is ahead on the net exchange of money. She is bankrupt. Or is that TOO simple for you?

    It’s so hard to see the big picture when wallowing in irrelevant details.

      Ragspierre in reply to Pasadena Phil. | December 12, 2018 at 9:23 am

      It’s harder to see the big picture when you can’t think and are wallowing in bullshit.

      Duh Donald hasn’t “received” anything yet, and he may not.

      As I pointed out just above, this is ridiculous. Trump can’t win on the net. He paid the $130K, plus his legal fees, and is getting back only 3/4 of the fees, plus $1K. So he’s out 1/4 of the fees, plus $129K. Plus whatever else he’s spent on her other suits, which have not been ruled frivolous. Plus whatever he paid to set up the NDA in the first place. On the net he’s way behind.

        I don’t think he can win on the “net” of it either, but he may not come out ultimately as badly as it seems (excepting certain assumptions about bankruptcy or debt discharge).

        This requires some assumptions:
        (1)If the NDA Court follows the Defamation Court’s lead, and imposes Texas Law for the purposes of determining the situs of the injury to President Trump by Clifford’s breach of the NDA;
        (2) Trump takes the NDA suit to some sort of trial and wins a finding that it is a valid, enforceable agreement that has been breached by Clifford;

        Then: Trump may have a claim for attorney’s fees for breach of contract under TEXAS CIVIL PRACTICE AND REMEDIES CODE Section 38.001(8).

        (it’s permissive [read: MAY award] by the Court, unlike the Texas SLAPP statute, which is mandatory [read: SHALL award] attorney’s fees)

    JusticeDelivered in reply to Ragspierre. | December 12, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Rags needs a special prosecutor, that experience would completely re-frame his difficulties with the “Little Person Syndrome”. It is hard to imagine how one becomes so small minded.

As Rags noted, this suit is not the same as Daniel’s suit to vacate the NDA she signed. This suit was for damages, which she allegedly suffered due Trumps defaming her character through untruthful public statements.

In this case, the judge felt that not only did no defamation occur, but that the suit was frivolous. Therefor, he found for Trump. As Trump prevailed, Daniels is on the hook for part of his legal fees. Because the suit was frivolous, she also has to pay $1000 in penalties. This amount is negligible, because the damage done to the defendant by the filing of the frivolous lawsuit, other than legal fees, is negligible.

The NDA suit has not been settled, to my knowledge, so any claim of liability by Trump seems premature. Also, the claims made by Daniels in the NDA case, are that the NDA is invalid because it was never signed by Trump and that Daniels was pressured into signing the NDA by Cohen. In the first case, the fact that Daniels received the agreed upon payment in exchange for the NDA, tends to undermine her claim that the lack of Trump’s signature invalidates the agreement. In the second case, proof that Daniels was, in fact, threatened into accepting the payment, will have too be proven. So, we’ll have to wait to see how that turns out.

How much, if any, of the settlement will ever be collected is also unknown, as is the result of any potential appeal. But, it represents a certain amount of vindication for Trump.

    The oral agreement (no, not that agreement – the NDA, you dirty-minded people) could be proven by the payment. (What else was the payment for?)

    “In the second case, proof that Daniels was, in fact, threatened into accepting the payment…” Good luck with that, Ms. Prostitute & Performer in pornographic videos. It sounds more like Daniels extorted the payment rather than had it – er – shoved down her throat.

With so many brilliant legal minds here weighing in on this huge loss for Stormy Daniels, I believe this is going to be more than a legal embarrassment for Michael Avenatti.

Stormy Daniels didn’t seek out the creepy porn lawyer for this libel case, he was already her attorney on the NDA case. This most certainly was Avenatti’s idea to sue Trump. This particular advice has resulted in a judgment of $293,052 against his client. Sure looks like malpractice to me.

The weirdest thing about all this is that I really can’t see a notorious germophobe like Trump getting anywhere within duelling distance of someone like Stormy Daniels. The woman has devoted her professional life to spreading stuff medical science doesn’t even have names for yet. He wouldn’t get anywhere near her unless she was entirely wrapped and sealed in plastic.

If Trump’s interested in such games, far better playgrounds are within reach, and always have been.

I saw a report (it was on the internet, so it must be true) that Stormy claimed that she never actually authorized Avenatti to file a suit against Trump.
If true, she will get another lawyer to make Avenatti pay everything the court ordered her to pay.
For this and other reasons, I expect this story to stay in the “news”.

    Jackie in reply to CaptTee. | December 16, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Ave att I may not have the money. He was evicted from his Law Office. Successful Attorneys are able to pay the rent. Maybe this was an attempt to get go fund me cash. It was really an incredibly weak case. Trump’s big error was ever responding to these women. He made them the story because he can’t resist fighting back. Who would care about Stormy Daniels accusations if Trump didn’t pay her and ignored her?