The first move former President Donald Trump's attorneys should do to fight back against New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil lawsuit against him and his family members is to push that she be recused and disqualified from the case, Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz said on Newsmax Wednesday after her announcement.
"I like Letitia James," Dershowitz said on Newsmax's "American Agenda." "She's a very nice person, but she campaigned on the promise to get Trump before seeing any evidence, and so she is just fulfilling a campaign promise. You can't have prosecutors even civilly prosecute a defendant if they made a campaign promise."
James said in a press conference that New York is suing Trump, Trump Organization officials, and three of his adult children — Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric — on allegations of widespread fraud involving financial statements made by the company and that at least $250 million in penalties is being sought.
But Dershowitz pointed out that the state is claiming the "biggest banks in the world" are claiming damages and wanted to know why they were not able to fight for themselves.
"Why does Letitia James have to be out there protecting and defending the biggest banks in the country who haven't sued him at all?" said Dershowitz. "This doesn't pass the test of a legitimate civil complaint, and I think they should be challenging it very vigorously."
Meanwhile, there are elements of the case that would require it to be heard before a jury, while other parts would require arguments solely before a judge, Dershowitz said, and he suggests pushing "very hard" on the issue of disqualifying James.
"Even if they lose in front of the trial court, they should go up on appeal," he said. "That's the kind of issue that is appealable immediately … it's a very, very strong argument."
Further, James will have to prove that the Trump properties were not what he claimed they were when using them to obtain financing, the basis of the case.
"One thing we know about real estate assessment is it's very open-ended and very subjective," said Dershowitz. "You know apartments have sold in New York for double their assessment. It's gonna be a very hard case for her to prove because they have to prove deliberate, intentional, willful fraud, not just that he had a different opinion of the value of his properties and others."
But when prosecutors bring a case, they have to be objective, he added.
"It can't be somebody who thinks that this will help their reelection campaign, and if she didn't bring the case, she would have been unelectable the second time around," said Dershowitz.
Further, it will take a long road to win the case, and James likely "feels she'd be better off politically litigating and losing than not litigating, which is another reason for not allowing her to make that decision," said Dershowitz.
He noted that if he was Gov. Kathy Hochul, he would remove James from the case, even if they are both Democrats.
"When a good prosecutor brings a case, you say you have to presume that it's based on facts and law," said Dershowitz. "I can't make that presumption when the person bringing the lawsuit has her political career on the line, depending on whether she does or doesn't bring this lawsuit.
"I don't think she cares as much about losing as having brought the lawsuit, and that's not the way the criminal justice system or the civil justice system should work."
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Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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