A ruling entered this month in a nonpublic arbitration proceeding ordered the 2016 Trump campaign to pay more than $300,000 in legal fees and expenses to former staff member Alva Johnson.
Johnson, who served as a campaign employee in Alabama, will receive the fees and expenses after an arbitrator decided that the campaign attempted to impose a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that was not legally enforceable.
Filing a lawsuit against Trump campaign
During a campaign stop in Tampa, Florida, in 2016, Alva Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Trump campaign, alleging that the former president grabbed and kissed her without her consent. A video of the purported event appeared to show no inappropriate behavior, prompting a federal judge to question her claim, as reported by MSN.
Johnson opted to drop the case in early September 2019, claiming continued threats to her safety, personal reasons, and the difficulty of seeking justice against someone with almost limitless resources. An arbitration case was filed on September 23, 2019, claiming that Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. broke the confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses of an NDA during the legal struggle with Johnson.
Johnson’s legal team then filed a suit requesting that Trump’s campaign compensate her legal fees and other costs.
Trump campaign has a history of trying to use arbitration
According to Buzzfeed News, for the past several years, Trump has been attempting to use arbitration to keep potentially damaging or embarrassing allegations out of court, a process in which hearings and papers are often open.
The report stated that nondisclosure agreements signed by many of Trump’s campaign staff in 2016 were said to prohibit them from disclosing information about the campaign or saying negative things about Trump or his family or businesses. The agreement stated that the campaign could pursue complaints about alleged violations of the agreement in arbitration.
But a judge and an arbitrator already ruled that crucial provisions of that agreement were unconstitutionally vague and ill-defined. A retired federal magistrate judge from California, Victor Bianchini, considered such rulings compelling and dismissed the campaign’s claims against Johnson late last year.
So Johnson’s lawyers asked the winning party to pay their legal expenses. Bianchini agreed and ordered the campaign to pay $303,285 plus the arbitration expenses of about $50,000.