Donald Trump WILL be the Republican candidate for President.
This proposition is no longer in the realm of fantasy or bad humor. As the world comes to grips with this reality, Elizabeth Lee Beck and I have been fielding many questions about the election. It feels like our country will be making a truly existential choice in November. This campaign season bears comparison to no other in our nation’s collective memory. People on all sides of the political spectrum are understandably nervous. Those who support Hillary Clinton are especially peeved with Bernie Sanders supporters (like Elizabeth and me), because they believe Bernie’s continued campaign will harm Clinton in the general election should she get the nomination.
In the interest of furthering a constructive and civil dialogue, I will try to explain my perspective, starting with the genesis of my own politicization.
As many already know, Elizabeth and I battled Donald Trump in two high-profile trials. This was in 2014. Our clients were buyers of “Trump”-branded real estate in Fort Lauderdale, who were suing him for fraudulent representations and false advertising – proclaiming he was the developer of the project when he was just lending his name. My fellow attorneys can attest that trials are exhausting, all-consuming affairs. In the course of a trial, you try, as best you can, to understand the internal workings of your opponent’s mind. In our cases against Trump, we came to know a man beset by hyper-competition, short-sightedness, and reactivity.
None of this was surprising. After all, this is a man who has made a career of leveraging his own narcissism into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. What was unexpected, however, was the reaction of our legal system to Trump.
In one of our cases, Trump violated a very important rule requiring defendants to provide their insurance policy to the other side. At the beginning of the case, Trump told us he was uninsured. Later on, we found out that Trump was lying – he actually had a $5 million policy covering our clients’ claims. Even worse, we discovered strong evidence that Trump had engaged in the same conduct in other cases. Not only that, but when we finally found out about the insurance policy, all the funds were GONE. When we brought this all to the court’s attention, the judge was visibly disturbed. She stated she was “troubled” by Trump’s conduct, likened it to an assault on the “integrity of the Court process” potentially “opening the Court up to all manner of mayhem and mischief.” She ordered us to take the deposition of Trump’s lawyer and held no less than three hearings on the issue.
What happened next, however, baffles me to this day. After the parties submitted voluminous briefing and argument, the judge issued an order sanctioning Trump. Unlike practically every other sanctions order I’ve seen, however, this order said very little about what Trump had done and why he was being sanctioned. Indeed, the order did not even mention Trump’s name! Furthermore, the judge never set a penalty that Trump had to pay for breaking the rules. In other words, Trump was not even given a slap on the wrist – he got off totally scot-free for conduct that had incurred the court’s wrath. Trump’s lawyer later crowed to the press that Trump never paid a “penny” despite getting sanctioned.
In another of our cases, there were several irregularities in the trial court, including an instance of blatant unjudicial conduct by the judge while Trump was on the witness stand – the judge shared multiple jokes with Trump and even lent him the glasses off his face at one point. Imagine if you were suing someone for fraud and the judge did this in your case! After two days of deliberation, the jury found for Trump. Based on a question from the jury deliberation room (it begins with “If the jury believes that advertisements may have been misleading”), I am convinced it agreed Trump’s representations were false or misleading but was led astray by the judge’s erroneous evidentiary rulings.
We appealed. Two weeks ago, the appellate court (Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal) issued a decision upholding the verdict for Trump. For me, this wasn’t the disturbing part. What bothers me is that the court declined to write a written opinion explaining why it believes the trial was fair or that Trump was entitled to the verdict. This is the Republican nominee for President of the United States of America, and the court won’t let us know why it thinks Trump is not legally liable for fraud! It seems to me that the citizens of a true democracy are entitled to such information. (We have filed a motion with the court requesting an opinion or, in the alternative, to hold a rehearing before the full court).
None of these experiences have led to me conclude the integrity of any individual judge is at issue. Rather, I believe there are rapidly growing systemic weaknesses in our judicial branch that have rendered the system less and less capable of protecting the weak against the strong – in our case, ordinary buyers of real estate against a vengeful, unstable billionaire named Donald Trump. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are responsible for having exploited and exacerbated these weaknesses over time.
That is why I support Bernie Sanders for President. Only Bernie Sanders stands for the concept of an authentic political transformation. Only such a transformation can ameliorate the deteriorating condition of our legal system. In the end, the ability to provide my clients with the zealous advocacy they deserve depends on bringing this transformation about.
Thank you for reading. You may also be interested in the following links:
Transcripts of federal court hearings on sanctioning Trump
Federal court order sanctioning Trump
Trump’s lawyer bragging in the press he didn’t have to pay “one penny” for federal sanction
Local South Florida TV coverage of the judge’s conduct during the Trump trial
Appellate decision affirming judgment for Trump
Our motion for issuance of written opinion or rehearing en banc
–This post is written by guest contributor Jared H. Beck, Director, JamPAC