New Trump legal professionals embrace Bhopal catastrophe, tobacco litigation vet

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Attorney John Coale speaks next to former U.S. President Donald Trump at Trump golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

  • John Coale says Trump representatives asked him to put new legal team together
  • Teammate John Kelly represented Nicole Brown Simpson estate in civil suit against O.J. Simpson

(Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump’s latest legal team includes a Washington, D.C., lawyer who made his name filing personal injury claims in the 1980s and 1990s, and a Connecticut attorney who represented the estate of O.J. Simpson’s slain wife.

Trump on Wednesday filed federal lawsuits against Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc, and Alphabet Inc’s Google, tapping a team of eight lawyers to assert 1st Amendment and other constitutional claims against the companies for allegedly silencing conservative views.

One of the attorneys, D.C.-based John Coale, gained prominence as one of the first U.S. lawyers to pursue litigation over a 1984 gas leak at an American Union Carbide Corp pesticide plant that killed thousands and poisoned more than half a million people in Bhopal, India. Union Carbide settled its liabilities to the Indian government in 1989 for $470 million.

Coale was also among the lawyers who took the lead in securing billions of dollars in settlement funds and attorney fees in litigation with cigarette makers in the 1990s.

Coale, who is married to former Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren, said in an interview that he is semi-retired, adding that he has been a “family friend advisor” to presidential candidates including Republican John McCain and Democrat Martin O’Malley.

Coale said Trump’s “people” asked him three months ago to put together a team to pursue the new lawsuits, which are styled as proposed class actions on behalf of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube users who allege they were censored.

“A lot of people will view this as a Donald Trump case. I view it as a 1st Amendment case,” Coale said.

The other members of Trump’s team are either also solo practitioners or members of small firms. Some large law firms shied away from representing the former president when he challenged President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, and many more decried his behavior after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress was certifying the election results.

Joining Coale on the lawsuits are John Kelly, a personal injury lawyer at 30-lawyer, Greenwich, Connecticut-based Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara, and four other Ivey Barnum lawyers. Coale said he has known Kelly for decades.

Kelly represented the estate of Nicole Brown Simpson in her civil lawsuit against her husband and suspected killer, O.J. Simpson. Although O.J. Simpson was acquitted of her murder in 1995, a civil jury ordered him to pay $25 million in punitive damages to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, who were together when they were killed.

The Trump team’s local counsel is Matthew Baldwin, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor and a current partner at Vargas Gonzalez Baldwin Delombard, which has offices in Coral Gables and Winter Park, Florida. Coale said Baldwin and his firm were recommended to him by other lawyers in Florida.

Frank Dudenhefer, a New Orleans-based mass torts litigator, is also on the team. Among his clients are local government entities in Indiana and Louisiana that have filed suit against McKinsey & Co for its role in the U.S. opioid pandemic.

Dudenhefer said he has known Coale for 30 years. He declined to comment on claims in the Trump lawsuit.

None of the other attorneys responded to request for comment.

Trump lost his social media megaphone earlier this year after repeatedly falsely claiming that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud – an assertion that was rejected by multiple courts, state election officials and members of his own administration.

Hundreds of his supporters launched a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 after Trump repeated those false claims in a fiery speech near the White House.

Read more:

Trump sues Facebook, Twitter and Google, claiming censorship

Victims of Bhopal gas tragedy say pandemic has worsened their plight

David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.