How Trump Supreme Court Lawyer’s Experience Compares With Alina Habba

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Former President Donald Trump will not be represented by his attorney Alina Habba in the major case challenging his candidacy when it goes before the Supreme Court.

Instead, Trump has hired a different lawyer, Johnathan Mitchell, to argue the 14th Amendment case seeking to remove him from the 2024 presidential primary ballot. On Thursday, Mitchell, the former Solicitor General of Texas who previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, will argue Trump’s case before the high court and ask the justices to reverse the Colorado Supreme Court’s earlier ruling.

One of the major differences between Habba, who represented Trump in his two Manhattan trials, and Mitchell, is their courtroom experience. While Habba has been repeatedly criticized for lacking the skills and etiquette that litigators typically possess, Mitchell is well-versed in presenting arguments in court. He has argued more than 20 times in the federal courts of appeals and five times before the Supreme Court alone.

Most recently, he submitted amicus briefs in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ultimately overturned Roe v. Wade, and in Student for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, which struck down affirmative action programs in colleges across the country.

He has also been described as the mastermind behind Texas’ “heartbeat law,” which bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, typically around six weeks. He argued a Supreme Court case in support of the abortion ban in 2021. The ban led to the overturning of Roe.

This week, Mitchell will argue before the Supreme Court again when he seeks to defend Trump’s name from being eliminated from the ballot. The well-known conservative advocate has known the former president for some time. In 2017, Trump had nominated him to chair the Administrative Conference of the United States, but Mitchell’s nomination never received a vote on the Senate floor.

A group of Colorado voters are aiming to block Trump’s name from appearing on the state’s primary ballot, arguing that the former president should be disqualified under the 14th Amendment because his actions leading up to and on the January 6 Capitol riot classify as insurrection.

Mitchell, who joined the case around the time that arguments were underway at the Colorado Supreme Court, is expected to help Trump with the six conservative justices, whose ideologies are more aligned with Mitchell’s. Three weeks from now, he will appear before the Supreme Court again to argue a different case where he will be representing a gun owner who is challenging a federal ban on bump stocks.

Lawyer Alina Habba with former President Donald Trump in court in New York on October 4, 2023. Habba will not be representing Trump when his 14th Amendment case goes before the Supreme Court.

Angela Weiss

Mitchell’s experience in the courtroom is vastly different from that of Habba, whose expertise is mainly in “corporate litigation and formation, commercial real estate (transactional and litigation), family law, the financial services industry and construction-related matters,” according to her firm’s website.

Habba is believed to have met Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where she was a member. She had not previously done any legal work for the former president when he hired her as part of his legal team in 2021. She recently raised eyebrows while arguing Trump’s civil fraud case and defamation cases in New York after legal observers suggested that her conduct in the courtroom made her look inexperienced.

Newsweek has reached out to Habba, Mitchell and Trump’s team via email for comment.

Last month, former Trump lawyer Ty Cobb called Habba’s performance “embarrassing.” Cobb told CNN that the judge in the case was not used to the “type of lawyering,” saying that he likely “demands a lot of the lawyers who show up in his courtroom… and he’s not getting that from her.”

“This is a very serious judge who believes that lawyers should understand that it’s a privilege to be a lawyer and that they need to follow the rules and that their duty is to help things proceed honorably, fairly and expeditiously,” Cobb said.