Serious Trouble
Serious Trouble
Big Judgment

Big Judgment

Arthur Engoron orders Trump to pay nearly $400 million; SCOTUS looks skeptical of Colorado's move to disqualify Trump from the ballot; Fani Willis' dirty laundry is aired in court

Dear listeners,

It’s been quite a week in litigation! The biggest news came late Friday: Judge Arthur Engoron issued his long-awaited verdict in the civil fraud lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and it orders Trump and his affiliated entities to disgorge nearly $400 million (plus interest) to the state of New York for what he says are ill-gotten profits and interest savings made possible by financial misrepresentations. Trump and his children will also be barred for several years from serving as officers or directors of companies in New York, and they won’t be able to borrow from New York-chartered financial institutions.

It’s a big judgment — and like the judgment in the E. Jean Carroll case, one he’ll have to put cash up for pretty soon, even if there will be years of appeals. Ken and I discuss what this means for Trump and his businesses, and whether (again, like in the Carroll case) he ended up with a worse legal outcome because he was so obnoxious during the trial process.

In Washington D.C., the Supreme Court is considering whether to overturn Colorado’s decision blocking Donald Trump from that state’s presidential ballot on 14th Amendment grounds. It can be hazardous to read into oral arguments, but the judges’ questions did not seem auspicious for Colorado. Meanwhile, the court must now decide whether to involve itself in Trump’s January 6-related federal criminal case — any day now, the justices could decide to stay those proceedings and consider Trump’s claims of immunity, or they could decide to pass on the case and let it go to trial. We’re watching.

Also in D.C., Special Counsel Robert Hur decided not to recommend any criminal charges against President Joe Biden related to his handling of classified documents, but the White House was less than thrilled about Hur’s report explaining why. Ken and I discuss what factors prosecutors should consider when deciding about bringing charges — indeed, as Hur bluntly notes, “I’m old and forgetful” would be a strong defense for Biden in a theoretical criminal case — and how special prosecutors should talk about those considerations in the odd circumstance of being expected to talk publicly about a decision not to prosecute. And we talk about a Biden accuser who’s facing his own indictment — from Special Counsel David Weiss, who’s also prosecuting Hunter Biden — for making up allegations about the Bidens, Burisma and bribes.

Finally, we talk about Georgia. What a mess. District Attorney Fani Willis took the stand in a hearing about whether she should be disqualified from the RICO prosecution she brought against Donald Trump on conflict-of-interest grounds related to a romantic relationship she had with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired to lead the case. The two-day hearing was salacious, with witnesses including Willis’s ex-friend who says Willis and Wade lied to the court about when they got involved; Wade’s ex-law partner who appears to have blabbed about the couple in potential violation of attorney-client privilege; and Willis’s father who said she couldn’t have been dating Wade in 2020 because she was dating some DJ who left his equipment all over the house; and Wade and Willis themselves, the former smooth and lawyerly and the latter combative. Based on the evidence presented, it doesn’t seem likely Willis will be disqualified. But the whole experience has not bolstered Willis’s strategic position as she proceeds with what remains a bloated, overcomplicated and politically fraught case.

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Serious Trouble
Serious Trouble
An irreverent podcast about the law from Josh Barro and Ken White.
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Josh Barro
Ken White