Trump Won’t Have a Jury in His NY Fraud Trial Because His Lawyers Didn’t Request One

by Jessica
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Former President Donald Trump has infamously attacked the judge presiding over his civil trial in New York for business fraud with regular frequency as the case has moved forward, so legal observers were surprised to learn that his legal team had declined to request a jury trial — leaving the ultimate verdict solely in that one judge’s hands.

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit against the Trump Organization seeks penalties of $250 million and to ban Trump and his adult children from doing business in New York.

Judge Arthur Engoron already dealt a sharp blow to Trump last week, ruling in favor of James’ motion for summary judgment and finding the ex-president liable for the core claim in her lawsuit that Trump had committed fraud by massively inflating the value of his assets by billions of dollars and exaggerating his net worth in order to secure financing and close deals.

Engoron’s order also stripped the business certifications of the Trump Organization and related defendant corporate entities and directed a receiver to be put in place to “manage the dissolution” of those businesses.

“Questions remain as to how the receiver would dissolve the properties; whether the ruling would impact properties outside of New York state, including Mar-a-Lago; and whether the Trumps could transfer the New York-based assets into a new company out of state,” CNN reported.

Unsurprisingly, Trump reacted to this ruling with an angry, all-caps rant on his Truth Social account blasting Engoron and James for their “politically motivated Witch Hunt” — and interestingly included among his complaints, “I am not even allowed a Jury!”

Trump again went after Engoron in his comments before the trial began on Monday morning, calling him a “rogue judge” and saying the trial was “a scam and a sham.”

Contrary to Trump’s complaint that he was “not even allowed” to have a jury, he absolutely did have the power to demand a jury trial, if only his attorneys had checked a single box on the front page of a standard New York court document.

In a civil case, the parties all have the right to request a jury; the only reason a trial would proceed without one is if both sides decline to demand one. Here, the prosecutors declined to do so in their Notice for Trial, as seen in the screenshot below of a section of the first page, by checking the box next to “Trial without jury.”

It’s not entirely clear why Trump’s attorneys didn’t request a jury trial. As Los Angeles Times senior legal affairs columnist Harry Litman noted, “[i]t’s incredibly easy” to do so and only requires you to “just check a box on a form.”

“Hard to believe that Trump understood his lawyers hadn’t done it when he’s been savaging the judge who is now the factfinder in his huge fraud trial,” Litman added.

As the trial began, commentators speculated whether Trump’s attorneys were engaging in some sort of strategy because they didn’t believe they would like the options they’d find in a New York City (i.e., liberal-leaning) jury pool or if they really did just forget to check the little box.

CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig told Mediaite he had heard these theories and “nobody has any way to know that,” but he did find it “interesting” that this might have been a deliberate strategy. “Wouldn’t shock me,” he added.

Honig and Caroline Polisi, a white-collar criminal defense attorney and legal analyst, both appeared on CNN Newsroom Monday morning to discuss the case.

 

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