Civil Cases: The Best Means of Prosecuting Trump

Ian Mitroff
3 min readApr 3, 2024

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

An Op-Ed by David Lat and Zachary B. Shemteb provides as it were a tutorial on the crucial differences between the Civil and Criminal Justice Systems[i]. In a word, Civil Cases provide the best means of prosecuting Trump.

The primary difference between them is that Civil cases have a lower standard of proof than Criminal cases. Civil cases merely require a “preponderance of evidence” to prove that it was more likely than not that someone committed a Civil Offence such as Trump being hit with $83.3 Million in the defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll. In sharp contrast, Criminal cases require a Jury or Judge to decide beyond a “reasonable doubt” that a defendant is guilty of committing a crime.

As the Criminal cases against Trump have either been postponed or have had important delays in their deadlines, the only one with a good shot of producing a verdict before the election are the minor charges of falsifying Business records. The important Federal cases against falsely retaining Classified Documents and the Georgia election interference are unlikely to be resolved before November.

As the authors write:

“…through civil litigation, we could one day learn more about the inner workings of the Trump empire. Civil cases allow for broader discovery than criminal cases do. Ms. [Littia] James [Attorney General of New York State], for instance, was able to investigate Mr. Trump’s businesses for almost three years before filing suit. And in the Carroll cases, Mr. Trump had to sit for depositions — an experience he seemed not to enjoy, according to Ms. Carroll’s attorney. There is no equivalent pretrial process in the criminal context, where defendants enjoy greater protections — most notably, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”

In closing, the authors note that given the extreme Political Polarization in which we are ensnarled, the advantages of Civil Prosecution will only become stronger.

At the same time, the need and cries for Criminal Prosecution will not go away. They will only become louder and stronger.

If ever there were a Criminal, it is Donald J. Trump. Those who support him are guilty of aiding and abetting one of the most dangerous persons in U.S. History.

[i] David Lat and Zachary B. Shemtob, “Don’t Overlook the Power of the Civil Cases Against Trump,” The New York Times, Wednesday, April 3, 2024, P A18.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

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