Trump turns to small N.J. law firm for latest lawsuits

President Donald Trump Delivers Remarks at a Bedminster News Conference
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., August 15, 2020. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger
  • Alina Habba's six-lawyer firm is lead for Trump in complaint against New York attorney general
  • Law firm also represents former president in suit against New York Times and his niece

(Reuters) - Former U.S. President Donald Trump has turned to a small law office near his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, to file a lawsuit to block an investigation into his business dealings in New York.

The six-lawyer firm Habba Madaio & Associates, a general civil litigation shop, on Monday sued New York Attorney General Letitia James in a bid to thwart her office's ongoing investigation. Trump previously retained the firm in September to sue his niece Mary Trump and the New York Times for damages over the publication of information about his tax returns.

Alina Habba, managing partner of the firm and Trump's lawyer in the lawsuits against James and the Times, did not return a message seeking comment about how she and Trump first connected. Her law partner, Michael Madaio, also did not return a message about the firm's work.

James, the New York attorney general, said in a statement responding to the lawsuit that "the Trump Organization has continually sought to delay our investigation into its business dealings." James is seeking to question Trump under oath as part of her office's civil fraud investigation of his business.

Habba earlier this year made an appearance defending Trump in a defamation lawsuit, now abandoned, that was filed by former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos. She told The Washington Post in September that her firm had "just stepped in to the case" and that it had not worked for Trump before.

In December 2020, Habba was briefly suspended from the New Hampshire bar over failing to complete an annual trust accounting certification. In a letter to the state attorney discipline office, she said the "matter came as a surprise to me as the prior firm and email is suspended/disbanded."

At the time, she said she had "no active clients or cases" in New Hampshire to notify of her suspension. She was administratively suspended only for about one month, New Hampshire court records show. A representative from the state attorney discipline office declined to comment on Monday.

Several major U.S. law firms distanced themselves from Trump or his company as a client in the aftermath of his baseless claims that fraud pervaded the 2020 presidential election that Joe Biden won. Earlier, Trump faced some reluctance from top-tier firms to defend him during the special counsel's probe of Russia's 2016 election meddling.

Habba Madaio was incorporated last year, New Jersey records show. The firm says it focuses on business and commercial litigation, real estate and family law. Habba is involved in pending pandemic-related federal court cases against a New Jersey nursing home and a Connecticut university.

Habba formerly was a managing partner at a firm in Bedminster then known as Sandelands Eyet. Her former business partner, William Sandelands, declined to comment on Monday. Trump stays at his namesake golf club in Bedminster when he visits the property.

Habba was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 2010 after she graduated from Widener University Delaware Law School.

The case is Trump v. James, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

For Trump: Alina Habba

For defendants: Not yet available

Read more:

Trump sues N.Y. Attorney General to block probe of his businesses

New York attorney general seeks Trump testimony in fraud probe - source

Morgan Lewis, Trump's longtime tax counsel, prepares for split

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