Here are just a few highlights from the résumé of Donald Trump’s latest lawyer: amateur poet... twice suspended from the Florida bar... and—perhaps most importantly—the man who helped fabricate a “ladies’ man” yearbook award for Trump when they were classmates at a junior military academy.
The attorney, local Florida lawyer Peter Ticktin, is Trump’s man on the ground for his latest legal salvo—a sprawling, conspiracy theory-laden broadside against Hillary Clinton and nearly 50 loosely affiliated co-defendants, all of whom Trump levels with conspiring to “weave a false narrative” to deprive him of the presidency in 2016.
The suit—which includes charges of “injurious falsehoods,” “theft of trade secrets,” and “conspiracy to commit racketeering”—has been ripped as a fantasy and “a press release.” But Ticktin and his lead counsel, Alina Habba, are taking it seriously.
But Ticktin is a curious choice to lead the lawsuit for more reasons than his poems. His firm, whose website URL is “legalbrains.com,” does not count government or election law among its many areas of expertise (though it does host 17 of the lawyer’s own poems). And while the office achieved recognized success in foreclosure law after the 2008 recession, Ticktin himself has also drawn legal scrutiny, including those two bar suspensions and a third investigation into shady billing practices during that same recession.
Ticktin does, however, have one ace in the hole: He loves Donald Trump. He first met the future president nearly 60 years ago at military school, and he was a vocal backer throughout Trump’s presidency. Ticktin even wrote a book documenting his love of Trump: What Makes Trump Tick: My Years with Donald Trump from New York Military Academy to the Present.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Ticktin defended his old friend and explained how he came to join the ambitious new case.
According to Ticktin, the 108-page lawsuit was two months in the making. That’s when he was first approached by Habba, who first tried to hire Ticktin’s daughter, a former Palm Beach County judge. When his daughter declined, he said, “Alina looked into me and met with me. And that’s how I got the gig.”
Even with the two suspensions and media reports of a third investigation, he cleared Habba’s vetting. But those suspensions, which Ticktin called a “horrible” experience, were quite serious.
The first concerned violations of conflict of interest and confidentiality rules, stemming from Ticktin’s relationship with a former client who was eventually convicted of defrauding investors of $20 million, Law & Crime previously reported.
“I did violate the rule in regard to conflict of interest, but everything I did was honest and aboveboard,” Ticktin told The Daily Beast. “I’d never been in trouble before, and for that to happen, it was just horrible.”
While he served a 91-day suspension, he said, the Florida bar hit him again.
“Once you’re under their microscope, they look at everything, and it came to light that I had paid a New York lawyer a referral fee,” he said, noting he served out both punishments concurrently. Shortly after that, Ticktin came under investigation again for his practice of offering distressed homeowners the option to put up a second mortgage in lieu of attorneys’ fees.
Today, Ticktin is “totally engaged” with the Clinton suit, and says he speaks directly with Trump “about every two weeks.” The former president, he said, also helps develop legal strategy.
As for that strategy, Ticktin said, “There’s more to this case than just the RICO claims,” dismissing critics of the racketeering charges and maintaining that Trump had a “strong case.”
Asked about Clinton’s specific role, Ticktin said was “not sure exactly what her direct involvement was.” But he offered a sprawling analogy.
“If you were to think of—let’s say Hillary Clinton is kind of like the head of an octopus, and I’m not going to call her an octopus, but you know, if you think of the tentacles that go down, you know, you’ve got the law firm, you’ve got Fusion GPS, going down into, you know, with Dolan—you know, Charles Dolan—giving information up the chain to [Igor] Danchenko, who then gives it over to [tech executive Rodney] Joffe and to, um, to, uh, basically to [former MI6 agent Christopher] Steele and then the Steele dossier being formed,” Ticktin said, in maundering Trumpian fashion.
Ticktin’s handiwork on the lawsuit, so far, hasn’t impressed too many observers, even some of those operating in the same Trump orbit that he now officially inhabits.
“It’s dumb,” one lawyer, who also works in the upper echelons of Trumpworld, succinctly assessed this week. This attorney requested anonymity in order to speak freely.
Ken White, a First Amendment lawyer and former federal prosecutor, had an even rougher take on the twice-impeached former president’s newest vengeful lawsuit.
“Trump’s RICO complaint is freakishly unprofessional and legally bumptious. Rather than a serious effort by serious lawyers, it’s a performative caper by injudiciously barred clowns,” White said on Tuesday. “This sort of fundraising-and-rabble-rousing-by-litigation is unethical and bad for the legal system.”
However performative the suit is, Ticktin is simply doing exactly what his high-profile client craves.
The attorney’s formal initiation into the top ranks of the Trumpworld’s ever-expanding and evolving legal realm comes after years of the Florida lawyer settling for a role as a MAGA bit player.
During the Trump era, Ticktin never rose to the levels of access enjoyed by many other conservative attorneys and legal hangers-on, some of whom worked closely with the then-president in his efforts to pull off a coup last year.
On the rare occasions when Trump brought up Ticktin’s name, it was typically to pat the lawyer on the head for coming to his defense. According to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, during the 2020 race, Trump was pleased to learn that Ticktin had publicly challenged Mary Trump’s claim that Donald Trump had cheated on his SATs.
“The president referred to him as a stand-up guy because of that,” this source recalled.
But Ticktin’s greatest strength may be his willingness to put himself out there. On his bio page on his law firm’s official “Legal Brains” website, there is a link to a section called, “Peter’s Poems.”
The section showcases artistic titles such as, “MOTEL,” “THE TORONTO SUBWAY SYSTEM,” “THE LITTLE ROOM,” “OH WHAT A SHAME,” “WANTING TO LOVE YOU,” and “THE HAMBURGER.”
Some of the poems have to do with loneliness and heartache. More than one is Toronto-themed—a nod to Ticktin’s family roots and early professional years. And one contemplates a “Miss Playboy” that has apparently been “chopped up.”
“At last the market place has brought / A toy that causes lasting thought / Of life and sex and puzzled joy, / A chopped up mess of Miss Playboy. / A jig sawed copy of past releases, / The poor girl has gone to pieces, / Cut apart by some contraption / As she longed for loving action,” reads the poem, “A PLAYBOY PUZZLE.”
“They actually had puzzles—they were in little cans,” Ticktin explained when asked about that composition. “And you put it all together and you got your Playboy.”
The poems, he said, were “from a long time ago.”
“I don’t really know exactly what they were thinking about putting it on the website, but I didn’t have a problem with the idea,” he said.
“If anything I wrote can ever help anybody in any way, that’s a good thing,” he added.
And he may have already done that. Decades before he became the ex-president’s lawyer, Ticktin’s writing work was already serving Trump’s interests and feeding his ego—even if accidentally.
Ticktin’s role on a student newspaper may have helped set the stage for The Donald’s many years of claiming to be an ultimate womanizer—long before he drew accusations of sexual assault and harassment by numerous women.
“He was really liked by our whole class,” Ticktin said. “That’s why we made him ‘Ladies’ Man.’”
At the military academy, it was the job of the newspaper staff to decide who won the year-end superlatives, “not like it is today where people run for election to become ‘Class Clown’ or whatever,” Ticktin explained.
And that “Ladies’ Man” award, according to Ticktin, was not only just an “inside joke” at the all-boys school; it was also a consolation prize.
“Somebody else got ‘Most Popular,’ and we wanted to give him something, so we made him ‘Ladies’ Man,’ which to us was kind of an inside joke because there really were no ladies,” Ticktin said.
This would appear to contradict other recollections of the time, including Trump’s.
The New York Times reported in May 2016 that Trump had cut “an image as a young playboy amid the deprivations of a single-sex military school, where most boys craved but rarely enjoyed the company of a girl.”
The Times also reported that Trump’s classmates had “crowned him” ladies’ man as “a nod to the volume of his dates.” When the Times asked Trump why he took that title, he replied, “I better not tell you—I’ll get myself in trouble,” adding he had “a great feeling” and “a great like” for women.
But in contrast to a classmate’s claim in the Times report that Trump had “a variety of girls coming up,” Ticktin said that he helped stage the yearbook superlative photo.
“In order to get a picture with him and a lady, you know, a girlfriend—supposedly—in the yearbook, we had to find the secretary out of the administration building that was young enough to fit the part, because we have no girls,” he explained. (That secretary was previously identified and found by the New York Daily News.)
“But we did it in good spirit, because we liked him and we just wanted to give him something positive in the book,” Ticktin said.