Trump’s Hail Mary: Legal Loophole Could Slash His Massive Fraud Fine

In a surprising turn of events, Donald Trump’s legal team may have found an unlikely savior in the form of a 2019 Supreme Court ruling penned by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As the former president faces a staggering $453.6 million penalty in the New York v. Trump civil fraud trial, his lawyers are hoping to invoke the Eighth Amendment’s protection against “excessive fines” to significantly reduce the amount owed.

The strategy, which has been gaining traction among conservative legal experts and pundits, hinges on the Supreme Court’s decision in Timbs v. Indiana. In that case, Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion held that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause applied to the states under the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

Trump’s legal team plans to use this ruling as the cornerstone of their appeal before the New York Supreme Court’s appellate division, arguing that the $453 million penalty imposed by Justice Arthur Engoron violates the Eighth Amendment.

However, the path to success is far from certain. The Supreme Court has consistently maintained that the Excessive Fines Clause only applies to criminal fines and civil forfeitures – not disgorgements, which is the type of penalty Trump faces. This distinction, while seemingly minor, could prove pivotal in the nation’s courts.

Further complicating matters is the 2020 Supreme Court decision in Liu v. Securities Exchange Commission, which clearly differentiated between disgorgement and civil forfeiture. The ruling defined disgorgement as equitable relief, not a form of forfeiture, and noted that disgorgement only includes direct proceeds/profits obtained from wrongdoings, while forfeiture can encompass secondary profits and ill-gotten gains.

Given the legal landscape shaped by Timbs v. Indiana and Liu v. SEC, Trump’s chances of successfully invoking the Eighth Amendment to slash his penalty appear slim. Nevertheless, experts across the political spectrum suggest that the former president could still secure a reduction in the total amount owed through other means.

As Trump’s legal battle unfolds, all eyes will be on his team’s audacious gambit to turn a Ginsburg ruling into a lifeline. The outcome of this high-stakes appeal will not only determine the former president’s financial fate but could also set new precedents in the complex interplay between civil penalties and constitutional protections.

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