Thursday, May 11, 2023
#131 / Bad News For Our Former President
This blog posting is my celebration of the jury system!
Pictured is E. Jean Carroll, as she left a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. Carroll's picture appeared on the front page of the May 10, 2023, edition of The Wall Street Journal. Click here for the story.
Of course, you probably don't need to read the story, to learn what was going on in the courthouse. As most who are seeing this blog posting undoubtedly know, Carroll sued Donald J. Trump, our former president, alleging that he both sexually harassed her, and raped her, and then later defamed her. The jury hearing Carroll's case found that Trump did sexually harass her, and did defame her, and handed down a $5 million verdict against him. The picture shows Carroll leaving the courthouse after she had just gotten that word. I bet you already knew that!
Our former president, who did not appear at the trial to contradict Carroll's testimony, has consistently stated that he never even met Carroll, much less sexually harassed her or raped her. Based on that claim, our former president has promised to appeal.
Presumably, any appeal by our former president will be based on the two possible grounds for contesting the verdict against him: #1 - Donald Trump never met Carroll, and the entire story is fictional, as Trump claims; or #2 - Even if Trump did everything that Carroll claimed, those actions were not sufficient under the law to find that he sexually harassed her, or defamed her, or to justify the $5 million penalty that the jury assessed against him.
Let me try to make clear to our former president how the law works (and to everybody else, for any and all who are not clear on this). An appellant can claim that the facts found by the jury were not the real "facts." And/or, an appellant can claim that the facts, if true, are not legally sufficient to justify the verdict.
Enter the jury system.
Appellate court justices are not empowered to overturn a finding of fact, made by a jury, unless there is, literally, NO evidence that supports the facts found by the jury. In this case, Carroll's claims, made in court, in front of the jury, constitute evidence. Based on her testimony (which Trump did not deign to contradict in court), the jury definitely found that Trump met Carroll. The jury definitely found that what she said happened in the dressing room did, actually, happen. The jury also definitely found that our former president did say the things that our former president said, in contradiction to Carroll's claims, and that the former president's statements were defamatory.
All of this means that our former president will not be successful with his claim that he never met Carroll. The jury's factual findings that he did meet her, and that he did things to her in that department store dressing room that constituted sexual harassment, and that he actually said the things that Carroll claimed defamed her, are not going to be reversed by an appellate court.
The facts found by a jury cannot be reversed on appeal. On an appeal, the only possible winning strategy for our former president is to convince the appellate court that what the jury found that our former president did, factually, was not, legally, sexual harassment. Our former president will have to convince the appellate court that what he said about Carroll was not, legally, defamation. An appellate court might also reduce the amount of the verdict, if the court were to find the award was excessive.
In other words, an appeal cannot, under our system, reverse the jury's findings on the "facts."
This is the glory of our jury system.
Ordinary men and women, listening to both sides, can make up their mind about what the facts are, and once they they have, no court can contradict the jury's factual findings.
This is bad news for our former president. Because the ordinary men and women of the jury have definitively found that our former president lied when he claimed never to have met Ms. Carroll, and that he lied when he claimed (outside of court, of course) never to have put his hands on her, or to have done the things that the jury found constituted sexual harassment, the only ground for a reversal of the jury's verdict is a finding that what our former president did was not, legally, sexual harassment, and that what he said was not, legally, defamatory.
Maybe an appellate court - given the facts that the jury found - will decide that what our former president did was not, legally, "sexual harassment." Maybe an appellate court will find that what our former president said about Ms. Carroll was not, legally, defamation. Maybe the appellate court will decide to reduce the penalty that the jury thought was appropriate, finding it "disproportionate" to the damages the former president's actions imposed on Ms. Carroll.
Good luck with all those arguments Mr. Former President! I doubt you're going to win, but you can raise the legal issues. You do have that right.
What you can't do is to contest the facts of what you did to Ms. Carroll. The facts are now clear, because our system gives a jury of ordinary men and women the right to determine what the facts are, when there are competing claims about those facts.
Maybe what you did is not, legally, sexual harassment. Maybe what you said about Ms. Carroll was not, legally, defamatory. Maybe! But I doubt you're going to win with those arguments, since I do know something about the law, and if the facts are as the jury found them, the verdict is well-founded on the law.
The key, to me, is this, Mr. Former President: Because the jury has now found the facts - which you never even came into court to dispute - everyone knows (even the appellate justices) that you are a LIAR.