Trump isn't getting a jury in his $250 million civil fraud trial because his lawyers failed to ask for one

Trump isn't getting a jury in his $250 million civil fraud trial because his lawyers failed to ask for one
Former president Donald Trump wanted a jury trial.KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images
  • Former President Donald Trump was entitled to receive a jury trial in his New York civil fraud case.
  • And while he himself wanted a trial by jury, his attorneys didn't correctly fill out court paperwork.

Former President Donald Trump won't receive a jury trial in his $250 million civil fraud case in New York because his lawyers never asked for one.

Trump's trial in his civil fraud case began on Monday morning in a downtown Manhattan courtroom, where the embattled former president made a surprise appearance.

The case was filed in September 2022, when New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her office had filed the sweeping lawsuit against Trump, his sons Eric and Donald Jr., and two other executives at the Trump Organization.

The case — in which New York Justice Arthur Engoron has already found that Trump committed years of fraud and handed down a "corporate death penalty" for the Trump Organization — is now in a bench trial for the remaining parts of the New York attorney general's lawsuit.

During a bench trial, the judge listens to all the evidence presented and decides the ultimate verdict and potential punishment instead of using a jury.


That leaves the fate of Trump's company in the hands of a judge who has already repeatedly ruled against him and his lawyers and who he has attacked as a political operative. The attorney general's office has sought to disgorge his company of what it says are ill-gotten profits from bank loans, issue a $250 million penalty against the defendants, and strip them of their ability to do business in New York.

While Trump has raged on social media in recent weeks about the decision to forego a jury trial, he only has one group to blame: his legal team.

On July 31, the New York attorney general's office filed paperwork telling the judge it had completed all its pre-trial work and was prepared for a trial. On that form, the lawyers checked a box requesting a "Trial without jury."

Trump isn't getting a jury in his $250 million civil fraud trial because his lawyers failed to ask for one
New York Attorney General Letitia James asked for a trial without a jury in Donald Trump's civil fraud case.New York Attorney General's office

Trump's lawyers never filed anything to court arguing otherwise, court records show. They had the opportunity to ask for a jury trial — but didn't.

Under the statute where James brought her lawsuit, it wasn't necessarily guaranteed that Trump would have gotten a jury to decide the case. But his lawyers didn't even ask Engoron to consider it.


Alina Habba, one of the attorneys representing Trump in the case, said Trump wanted a jury in the case.

"I know my client did want a jury, and we did want that," she said.

She did not explain why they didn't ask for one.

After appearing at the courthouse on Monday, Trump lambasted Engoron and his law clerk while standing directly outside of his courtroom, where he accused the judge of "getting away with murder" and of being a "democrat operative."

The New York civil fraud trial against Trump could last until December 22, though it could end sooner.


In remarks at the beginning of the trial, Engoron noted neither side had asked for a jury and mentioned his frequent quips and pop culture references throughout the court proceedings.

"I promise to do my best," he said. "Despite my lame attempts at humor, as I mentioned in an early phase of the case, I take my job very seriously."