A jury has said Rudy Giuliani must pay two former Fulton County election workers $148 million in defamation damages for falsely claiming that they manipulated ballots in the 2020 election.
Before the decision was announced, Giuliani’s lawyer, Joseph Sibley, said in court that a verdict of tens of millions of dollars would be the “civil equivalent of the death penalty” for the former New York City mayor.
Now that he has been found liable for a figure far higher than that, it raises the question: can Giuliani pay even a portion of the staggering sum to Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss?
How long could an appeal take and what would it look like?
Giuliani has pledged to appeal the verdict, calling the award “absurd.”
To appeal to the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he must first file a notice of appeal and get the record of the case sent to the D.C. Circuit.
Washington attorney Norm Eisen, President Barack Obama’s former ethics czar who has closely followed the case, said the D.C. Circuit is resolving some appeals in as short as six months.
“That could happen here if the circuit decides that Giuliani’s arguments are not that great or if he can’t find a competent counsel to press them,” Eisen said. “So I would say six to 12 months.”
Whichever side loses can then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, further delaying the final outcome. But if the high court decides not to hear the appeal, the case would be over in a matter of a few months.
“I don’t see this case being overturned on appeal,” Eisen said. “The jury’s verdict is well-grounded.”
What is the state of Giuliani’s finances?
Not good. Giuliani’s net worth when he ran for president in 2008 was pegged at about $52 million. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, who oversaw the recent defamation case, asked Giuliani for current financial documents but he didn’t comply.
What we do know is that Giuliani is facing a mountain of legal bills, which he is struggling to pay.
Giuliani earns about $400,000 a year from a radio show and also receives income from a podcast, according to The New York Times.
He has also been grappling with the financial fallout of a contentious divorce with his third wife, Judith Nathan. She has accused him of not paying money promised under their divorce agreement.
Giuliani has reportedly asked Donald Trump for help with his mounting legal bills, many of which stem from Giuliani’s time representing the former president. Trump hosted a $100,000-per person fundraiser for Giuliani in September at his Bedminster, N.J. golf club.
Could he avoid paying by declaring bankruptcy?
In their verdict, the Washington jury said Giuliani owes Freeman and Moss $33.2 million in compensatory damages for defamation, plus $40 million for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on them. The jury also awarded them $75 million in punitive damages.
Ishaq Kundawala, associate dean for academic affairs at Mercer University’s law school, said if Giuliani files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief, “it is possible that he could seek to discharge some of the debts owed to the election workers.”
The compensatory damages may be dischargeable, said Kundawala, who specializes in bankruptcy law, but other damages for emotional distress and punitive damages wouldn’t be if a bankruptcy court “concludes that those debts stem from a willful and malicious injury to the election workers.”
“Based on this, I think it would be very unlikely that Giuliani would seek shelter in bankruptcy,” Kundawala said. “Giuliani would not be able to get the type of relief that he would want.”
Legal experts have pointed to the defamation case against far-right radio host Alex Jones filed by the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims. After he was ordered to pay the families almost $1.5 billion, Jones filed for bankruptcy. A judge ruled in October that Jones couldn’t use his bankruptcy filing to avoid paying the damages.
How is Giuliani earning money?
It isn’t through practicing law. The law license of the onetime U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has been suspended in his home state and in Washington D.C.
Giuliani put his Manhattan co-op on the market in August for $6.5 million. Sotheby’s Realty still lists the three-bedroom, three-bathroom property as available and has dropped the price to $6.1 million.
He has hawked various items to make money - including signed 9/11 t-shirts for $911. At one point, he sold video messages on the website Cameo for $325 apiece but the site no longer lists him as active.
Is Giuliani facing other legal trouble?
Yes. He was indicted in August by a Fulton County grand jury for 13 felonies, including participating in a racketeering conspiracy to overturn the results of Georgia’s 2020 election. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged several others in the case for harassing Freeman, and prosecutors were likely closely watching the defamation trial for any information they could use against Giuliani or others in Georgia.
He also faces a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, the company that makes the voting machines used in Georgia and other states. Dominion has accused Guiliani of spreading more than 50 falsehoods about the company in the aftermath of the 2020 election, including that Dominion was a Venezuelan company created to rig elections for Hugo Chávez.
Giuliani has also been sued by his longtime attorney seeking to recover more than $1.3 million in unpaid legal fees and a former employee, Noelle Dunphy, who has accused him of sexual harassment and assault.
Do Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss have other lawsuits pending?
Yes. Their lawsuit against the conservative website The Gateway Pundit, which was the first to identify Freeman and Moss by name, is still pending in Missouri state court. Freeman and Moss’s legal team said the site “knowingly disseminated blatantly false stories claiming that Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss were involved in a conspiracy to commit election fraud, and continued to publish these untruths long after they were proven to be false.”
Attorneys for The Gateway Pundit said their clients can’t be sued because the statements in their articles were based on testimony and evidence provided by Trump’s legal team, including Giuliani, during statehouse hearings in Georgia. Freeman and Moss’s lawyers have asked a judge to set an August 2024 trial date and accused the site’s founders of “repeatedly delay(ing) discovery in this matter.”
A similar defamation suit Freeman and Moss filed against the conservative One America News Network ended in a settlement. The network later acknowledged on air that an investigation proved that Freeman and Moss “did not engage in ballot fraud or criminal misconduct while working at State Farm Arena on election night.”