Donald Trump has lost the first legal battle in his fight against New York Attorney General Letitia James and her $250 million fraud case against him: he was officially served with the 220-page lawsuit after three weeks and a court order.
Trump was finally served, according to James, through his attorney, Alina Habba, “by sending in electronic mail a message containing a secure cloud link to pdf attachments of all the documents.”
The lawsuit accuses the Trump Organization of a decade-long pattern of fraudulently inflating the company’s value, and it seeks a quarter-billion dollars in penalties as well as a ban on the Trumps doing business in New York.
Representatives for Trump and his son Eric, an executive vice president at his father’s company, had refused to serve the lawsuit since it was filed three weeks ago, on September 21.
According to a court filing last week, Habba and a lawyer for Eric Trump, Clifford Robert, never responded to emails sent by the attorney general that same day requesting confirmation that they were the appropriate people to accept service.
All of the other defendants in the suit, including Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., had already accepted service.
Despite the fact that Habba and Robert submitted “notices of appearance” to the court in late September, declaring themselves to be attorneys of record in the case, Donald and Eric Trump remained silent.
The apparent deception prompted James’ office to accuse Trump’s team of “gamesmanship.” She requested a court order last week that would allow her to simply email the papers to Habba and Robert and be done with it.
The Manhattan judge presiding over the case quickly agreed, ruling on Thursday that emailing the documents to the two lawyers would suffice as service to both Trumps. According to their Monday filing, James sent those emails the same day.
Habba and Robert have not responded to Insider’s requests for comment on the lawsuit’s delay in service.
The judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, has set October 31 as the date for the next dispute in the lawsuit.
The parties will argue about the attorney general’s claim that the Trump Organization is so riddled with ongoing fraud that it requires an independent financial monitor to be appointed and overseen by the judge right away.
Another early squabble involves Engoron, the same judge who found Trump in contempt of court in April for failing to fully comply with the attorney general’s subpoenas in the two-year period leading up to her filing suit.
Habba has requested that the lawsuit be moved out of Engoron’s courtroom and handled by any judge in Manhattan’s commercial division, which handles complex business disputes.
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