The Trump Files: Trump’s Long History of Getting Sued by His Own Lawyers

Mother Jones illustration; Shutterstock

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on October 27, 2016.

During his decades in the real estate world, Donald Trump famously shortchanged many small businesses on the money he owed them. The list includes companies that worked on Trump’s properties or supplied him with chandeliers, pianos, marble, and other luxury touches. But Trump also tried to underpay the very same lawyers who helped him save money, and some ended up suing their former client.

As our own Hannah Levintova reported in March, the Atlantic City law firm of Levine Staller saved one of Trump’s companies tens of millions of dollars in taxes—and then sued the company, Trump Entertainment, after the business tried to pay Levine Staller $1.25 million less than the firm was owed.

In 2012, Levine Staller won a settlement that returned $35 million in overpaid taxes and cut $15 million from the company’s future liabilities, leading to a total savings of $50 million for the corporation. Trump agreed to pay $7.25 million to the law firm in legal fees, but then only paid Levine Staller $6 million before trying to claim the rest as unsecured debt in ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. In response, Levine Staller sued its former client, Trump Entertainment, and in 2014, a judge rejected Trump Entertainment’s request to be absolved of this debt and told the company to pay up.

It wasn’t an isolated case. Trump underpaid at least four law firms or lawyers who worked for him, according to various news outlets that looked into Trump’s history of cheating his contractors. One of them, Morrison Cohen LLP of New York City, had represented Trump in a lawsuit against a construction contractor that Trump claimed had overcharged him for work on a golf course. According to USA Today, Trump sued Morrison Cohen for using the case to help promote its work, and the firm countersued for almost $500,000 in unpaid bills. The case was settled in 2009.

It wasn’t just big amounts Trump tried to get out of paying, either. Bill Scherer, a lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had to sue Trump in 1994 to collect $5,000 in unpaid legal bills from a case Scherer won for the billionaire. The lawyer told Reuters last year that he had offered Trump a low rate to “curry favor” with the mogul, but still had to sue. “He’s a deadbeat,” Scherer told South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper. Trump told Reuters that he couldn’t remember Scherer or the case at all.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate