Oct 4, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Why Trump's fraud trial in New York doesn't have a jury

Trump speaks with hands outstretched wearing red tie.

Former President Trump addresses the press during a lunch break on the third day of his civil fraud trial on Oct. 4 in New York City. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Former President Trump has repeatedly complained about the lack of a jury in his New York civil fraud trial, but his own legal team appears to have failed to request one.

Why it matters: Trump has claimed it's "unfair" that the judge in the case opted for a bench trial, without a jury. But the court docket shows that while Attorney General Letitia James filed a document requesting a bench trial, Trump's lawyers never filed any corresponding document requesting a jury.

  • If Trump's team had requested a jury, then Judge Arthur Engoron would have had to consider both sides' requests.
  • Representatives for Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

What is a bench trial?

  • A bench trial is one in which the judge, rather than a jury, decides the case, according to the NY Courts system.
  • Engoron is overseeing the trial, which began on Monday after James filed the $250 million lawsuit in September 2022. Engoron has already ruled that Trump committed fraud by exaggerating his wealth.

What did Letitia James' team request?

  • James' team requested a trial without a jury in a note of issue filed to the court on July 31.
  • The request also included a certificate of readiness for trial, which stated that there were no outstanding requests for discovery.

What is the judge's role?

  • Engoron will decide the facts of the case and determine how to apply the law, per Cornell Law School.
  • At the beginning of the trial, Engoron said that neither side requested a jury, according to AP.

What are Trump and his team saying?

  • "I am not even entitled, under any circumstances, to a JURY," Trump posted Wednesday on Truth Social. He has made similar remarks throughout the trial.
  • Alina Habba, a Trump attorney, said that Trump did want a jury but didn't explain why his legal team didn't request one, Insider reports.

Go deeper: What we know about the Trump civil fraud trial in New York

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