“Nothing Succeeds Like Excess”: New York’s Perverse Incentive in Pricing Trump Out of an Appeal

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by Jonathan Turley

Below is my column in the New York Post on the confiscatory fines imposed on former president Donald Trump and his family and corporation. Democrats are thrilled by the over the $450 million bill facing Trump and the possibility that he could be forced to sell off property just to seek an appeal. On ABC, New York Attorney General Letitia James declared “If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets.” She added menacingly “yes, I look at 40 Wall Street each and every day.” It is a curious legal system where defendants can be priced out of appeals. While Trump has ample resources and can do this without a “fire sale,” it suggests that a person could be forced to sell a home to challenge its loss in court.

Here is the column:

Oscar Wilde wrote that “moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” Justice Arthur Engoron took that line to heart with his absurd imposition of $455 million in fines and interest against Donald Trump and his corporation.

It succeeded wonderfully with New Yorkers, who celebrated the verdict like a popular public execution. It also worked wonderfully to make it difficult to appeal.

Much of the criticism of the decision focused on the unprecedented use of the law and the excessive size of the fine. The New York statute has been on the books for decades and has always been something of an anomaly in not requiring an actual victim or loss to justify disgorgement or fines.

Even the New York Times agreed that it could not find a single case in history where this statute was used against an individual or a company that did not commit a criminal offense, go bankrupt, or leave financial victims.

Engoron then combined that unprecedented application with an equally extraordinary penalty, which is greater than the gross national product of some countries.

He disgorged hundreds of millions in a case where not one dollar was lost by anyone. Indeed, the “victims” wanted to get more business from Trump and are now being prevented from doing so by Engoron.

There is also an added inequity to Engoron’s decision.

Under New York law, Trump cannot appeal this ruling without depositing the full amount, including interest, in a court account. Even for Trump, $455 million is hard to come by. Likewise, a bond would require a company to guarantee payment for a defendant who has been barred from doing business in New York and is facing the need to liquidate much of his portfolio.

Nothing succeeds like excess for judges like Engoron. By imposing this astronomical figure, he can make it difficult or impossible for a defendant to appeal, absent declaring bankruptcy or selling off assets at distress prices.

The excessive fine and its basis raise serious statutory and constitutional questions. Many of us believe it should be substantially reduced or tossed out entirely.

First, however, Trump must come up with almost half a billion dollars to park with the court. Even with a bond, the high costs of securing a guarantor could come at a premium. It would cost a fortune to the bond holder just to carry the risk even if Trump prevails on appeal.

The combination of the draconian fine and the threshold deposit for appeal has produced a shudder throughout the New York business community. The city is already experiencing an exodus of businesses and individuals from the top tax brackets. Rising crime, taxes, and eat-the-rich politics have made New York a hostile environment for businesses. At a time with rising costs from undocumented migrants, even Mayor Eric Adams is alarmed about the loss of his high earners.

The case brought by Attorney General Letitia James was unnerving for many. James previously sought to dissolve the National Rifle Association and campaigned on bagging Trump on some unnamed offense. The ecstasy expressed by many in the city reinforced the image of a thrill-kill chase around the island of Manhattan, like a corporate version of “Lord of the Flies.”

Watching the celebrations probably caused many executives to check time shares in Florida. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has rushed to assure businesses that there is “nothing to worry about” after the corporate public execution of Trump and his company.

But the best that politicians like Hochul and Adams can offer is that you have nothing to fear from confiscatory actions unless you are Trump in New York.

Which is precisely why this decision should be overturned.

What is clear is that this case would never have been brought, let alone result in this massive fine, except for politics.

For example, if you are the NRA, James will seek your destruction for financial irregularities, but if you are Black Lives Matter or Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, there is little real risk in such controversies.

If the only protection in New York is the discretion of figures like James, few businesses would relish the future. The message is that you can expect blind and equal justice so long as you don’t run afoul of the Democrats in power.

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Anyone that does not see the fascism oozing from this and is repelled by it… is a fascist.

02/19/24 – Judge Engoron’s Ruling Is a Detailed Road Map to Trump’s Thievery

The $355 million judgment is bad enough. But if you want the full flavor of the Trump Organization’s chicanery, read what the judge had to say.

The news about the eye-popping $355 million judgment against Donald Trump Friday minimized or even missed the real story in the judge’s richly detailed ruling.

In justifying his findings of fact, New York Judge Arthur Engoron’s analysis of testimony in Trump’s seven-week civil fraud trial in Manhattan showed how everything Trump does is based on consistent and shameless cheating, deceiving, falsifying documents, and lying.

The 92-page ruling establishes that Trump isn’t a business genius, a modern Midas who turns everything he touches to gold. Instead, the former TV entertainer and real estate mogul is simply a crook, a white-collar thief who uses flattery, threats, lies, and an ink pen to rip off everyone he can, particularly banks and insurance companies. Engoron’s opinion provides a road map to understanding Trump’s outrageous behavior and thus what we should expect from a second Trump administration.

Trump, to use his words, does “whatever the hell” he wants. Trump is just being true to himself, whether cheating his niece Mary out of most of her inheritance; sexually assaulting women like E. Jean Carroll; making up lies about Carroll in hopes of discrediting her; or tricking banks, insurance companies, and our government into valuing his properties in ways that stuff greenbacks into his pockets.

All but one Trump witness lacked credibility, and many outright lied, Engoron showed. He meticulously dissected dozens of lies told at trial not just by Trump, his three oldest children, and two Trump Organization executives but by a host of supposedly expert witnesses paid as much as a whopping $960,000 to testify on Trump’s behalf…

Last edited 1 month ago by Greg

What did he steal? Who did he defraud? Who lost money? Who was harmed? Who complained? The very banks that were supposedly defrauded testified they want MORE of his business because he is a sure bet. It’s nothing but a bunch of “He’s bad. He’s not nice. He has an attitude.” Bullshit that they traffic in lieu of facts and evidence.

Engoron is no judge of who lies. HE is a despicable fascist liar, as is everyone that, instead of admitting they see exactly what this fascist lawfare is and what it is intended to accomplish, pretend it is “justice served”. It is yet another national embarrassment delivered by the Democrats.

Anyone that does not see the fascism oozing from this and is repelled by it… is a fascist.

Its quite plain to see that Pinheads like Greg watches CNN and reads the NYT’s

Only in your pea sized Brain you Nit-Wit the Judge should be kicked off the bench the real thief you Moron or should i say Thieves is in the United Nations

They need a Flood in the Big Apple to clean out the unsightly rubbish called Democrats Globalists Soros and Bragg and that idiot Judge

This ruling is to deny Trump his 8th amendments rights,
The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments, excessive fines, and bail. It is often mentioned in the context of the death penalty, but also affects other areas of law such as civil and criminal forfeiture.
When the king got short of cash he would shake people down in the courts, the founders witnessed this.
The “Judge” deemed the real estate appraiser unqualified?
Steven Laposa, PhD is a principal and founder of Laposa Realty Advisors, LLC.
Dr. Laposa has extensive real estate and project management experience on a global scale including market analytics and forecasting, property tax appeals, real estate cycles, automated valuation modeling, national and international institutional investment acquisition and disposition strategies, equity and debt portfolio risk analysis, litigation expert, site location analysis, and industry recognized thought leader.

A stay should be filed and demand of findings, any communications between the WH and the kangaroo perps or Smith and the NY AG was there a conspiracy to deny a former President his civil rights?
Any wonder Real Estate and others will not do business with NY no matter what the Governor says?

Last edited 1 month ago by kitt

Yeah, the expert doesn’t know what he’s talking about but Engoron bases his opinion on his belief that Mar a Lago is only worth $18 million.

And imbecilic like Greg with his Pea-Sized Brain