Why Isn’t There a Jury Trial in New York for Donald Trump?

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The New York State Constitution says that a “Trial by jury will always be protected and cannot be violated” unless everyone involved agrees not to have one. But why isn’t Donald J. Trump getting a trial by a jury in the case led by New York Attorney General Letitia James? Let’s break it down.

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When is a Jury Trial Allowed?

People can have a trial by jury in serious criminal cases or when someone is asking for money as a result of damages. However, the case against Donald J. Trump and his companies is a civil case, not a criminal one, and it doesn’t exactly ask for monetary damages. Instead, it requests the court to take different actions, like stopping certain activities and canceling business certificates in New York. Historically, these kinds of cases have not allowed a trial by jury.

A Little History Lesson

Going back to old English courts, there were two types of courts:

  • Courts of Law: Here, you could have a jury trial, but they could only make decisions about money judgments and criminal penalties.
  • Courts of Chancery: These courts could make people take or stop specific actions (like issuing injunctions) but did not allow jury trials.

Even though our modern courts handle both cases, the old rules about when you can have a jury trial still apply.

What is Letitia James Asking For?

Attorney General Letitia James isn’t exactly asking for a money judgment. She’s asking for something called “disgorgement,” which means making Trump and his companies pay money to the state. This is different from a typical money judgment because the court can enforce payment through a process called contempt. In a regular money judgment, the winning party can try to collect money through legal means, but not by using contempt.

Could Trump Request a Jury Trial?

Trump’s lawyers might argue that disgorgement is similar to asking for a money judgment and therefore should allow for a jury trial. However, New York courts have likely established laws on this matter, making it unlikely that a request for a jury trial would be successful.

In summary, due to the specific type of case and relief being sought by Attorney General Letitia James, Donald J. Trump and his companies are not entitled to a trial by jury in this instance.


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