Why Trump’s fraud trial doesn’t have a jury

A trial stemming from a $250m lawsuit against Donald Trump, his adult sons, chief associates and his business empire is proceeding without a jury in a Manhattan courtroom.

Judge Arthur Engoron is presiding over the bench trial in New York Supreme Court after his stunning 35-page decision granting New York Attorney General Letitia James a partial judgment in her favour stemming from claims in her lawsuit, which alleges a decade of fraud that exaggerated the former president’s net worth by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The judge determined that a trial isn’t necessary to determine that Mr Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent, resolving a key allegation in the case, with six other so-called “causes of action” from the lawsuit left to be resolved.

Mr Trump has repeatedly lashed out at the judge, who has been baselessly accused of launching a political attack against the former president. But Mr Trump and his co-defendants could have avoided an outcome determined by Judge Engoron is their attorneys simply requested a jury.

The judge explained during the first day of the trial on 2 October that the case has no jury because neither side had “asked” for one.

Moments earlier, while he was surrounded by news cameras in a hallway outside the courtroom, the former president called for an investigation into Judge Engoron during a makeshift news conference.

In July, a form filled out by Ms James’s office included a box with two options: “Trial by jury demanded” or “Trial without jury.” The filing includes a checkmark in “Trial without jury.”

Attorneys for Mr Trump did not fill out that form.

On his Truth Social in the wake of the judge’s ruling last week, Mr Trump falsely claimed that the judge “railroaded” a “fake case” through the judicial pipeline that has denied him “everything”.

“No Trial, No Jury,” he wrote.

During the first day of a trial, Mr Trump’s attorney Alina Habba claimed that her client “did want a jury”.

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, whose taped deposition was included in plaintiffs’ opening remarks and who is expected to be a critical witness against his former boss in the coming weeks, previously suggested that Ms Habba “made a terrible error” if she forgot to “check off a certain box.”

“By failing to check off a certain box that had the case as a jury trial, it is now a bench trial, so Judge Engoron will be the sole decider on what the damages are,” he told CNN.

Mr Engoron, who spoke slowly and deliberately as he outlined what will be the course of the trial, which is expected to last more than two months, has pledged to preside fairly over the case.

“I promise to do my best,” he said in his opening remarks. “Despite my lame attempts at humour, I take my job very seriously, and I know the counsel and parties do likewise.”