U.S. District Judge S. James Otero handed down a ruling on Wednesday regarding demands for attorneys’ fees from Stormy Daniels to be awarded to President Donald Trump following the dismissal of her defamation lawsuit against him. Trump and his legal team, led by Charles Harder, sought upwards of $389,000 from Daniels, as well as sanctions against her and her lawyer Michael Avenatti for what they deemed to be a a frivolous lawsuit.
Judge Otero ordered that Daniels pay $292,052.33, which he noted was a 25% reduction from what Trump’s team requested, saying that the case “should have been litigated much more efficiently.” The ruling said, “the descriptions of the work performed suggest that the hours spent on tasks by Defendant’s attorneys were excessive,” and that certain work could have been performed by associates instead of partners, who charge more per hour.
At the same time, the judge ordered an additional $1,000 in sanctions against Daniels as called for under the Texas Citizen Participation Act, the law under which Trump successfully fought off Daniels’ defamation claim.
The judge said, “the Court declines to impose significant additional sanctions here,” noting that sanctions are meant “to deter frivolous [lawsuits],” yet Daniels’ ongoing efforts to dismiss her other defamation claim against Michael Cohen shows that she “is already being deterred from filing meritless defamation claims.”
Harder celebrated the decision, saying in a statement to Law&Crime:
The court’s order, along with the court’s prior order dismissing Stormy Daniels’ defamation case against the President, together constitute a total victory for the President, and a total defeat for Stormy Daniels in this case.
Avenatti, meanwhile, was far from despondent over the result.
“Harder and Trump both have problems with the truth. They received less than one half what they asked for because the request was gross and excessive,” he told Law&Crime. “Stormy will never half to pay a dime because they owe her over $1 million in attorney’s fees and costs from the main NDA case, especially in light of Cohen’s guilty plea.”
The lawsuit came after Trump accused Daniels of a “con-job” after she and Avenatti went on The View with a forensic sketch of an unidentified suspect she claims threatened her in 2011 to keep her from talking about Trump. Daniels claimed that Trump’s statement was defamatory, but Judge Otero ruled that it was protected opinion speech dealing with a matter of public concern.
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