Rudy Giuliani On The Hook For $120,000 In Legal Fees In Libel Suit He Already Admitted (In Court!) He Lost
from the playing-4D-blackjack,-standing-on-a-pair-of-twos dept
For someone who’s a lawyer, a former prosecutor, a former mayor, and a former presidential confidant, Rudy Giuliani sure doesn’t seem to know his way around a lawsuit. It’s perhaps that last thing on that list that’s gotten him in the most trouble. Rather than recognize the peaceful transition of power that followed the 2020 election, Giuliani put himself in Trump’s pocket and helped pitch his alternative reality anywhere someone was willing to give him a platform.
Two Georgia election workers sued Giuliani after he defamed them. And I don’t have to use the word “allegedly” because he openly admitted he defamed them in a motion filed in the very court handling this suit.
That should have resulted in Giuliani ceding the loss and opening his wallet to pay the election workers’ legal fees. Somehow, it did not. I’m sure it made some sort of cosmic sense to Rudy and his hired legal guns. But it made no sense to Judge Beryl Howell, who asked Giuliani to kindly explain how admitting you defamed someone meant (1) the lawsuit wasn’t over, and (2) that you weren’t civilly liable for legal fees or damages.
Now, what already looked bad for Giuliani looks even worse. The judge is calling the game, since Giuliani isn’t honorable enough to forfeit. Not only has he worn out the patience of Judge Howell on this matter, he’s also irritated the court to the point of sanctions in another matter: that being, his continuous refusal to comply with discovery orders.
Here’s the discussion on that point, which leads off a 57-page ruling [PDF] that culminates in an additional $120,000 Giuliani now owes to the plaintiffs he has already admitted he wronged. The judge recites the legal standards for the preservation of electronically stored information (ESI) and how these long-established rules are generally well-understood and complied with by the vast majority of litigants.
Then the judge goes after Rudy Giuliani, who has decided he’s exempt from rules that, as a lawyer himself, he’s certainly well acquainted with.
Defendant Rudolph W. Giuliani is taken at his word that he understands these obligations. He assured this Court directly that he “understand[s] the obligations” because he has “been doing this for 50 years[.]” In this case, however, Giuliani has given only lip service to compliance with his discovery obligations and this Court’s orders by failing to take reasonable steps to preserve or produce his ESI. Instead, Giuliani has submitted declarations with concessions turned slippery on scrutiny and excuses designed to shroud the insufficiency of his discovery compliance. The bottom line is that Giuliani has refused to comply with his discovery obligations and thwarted plaintiffs Ruby Freeman and Wandrea’ ArShaye Moss’s procedural rights to obtain any meaningful discovery in this case.
Giuliani and the voting base he now caters to may enjoy performative court filings, but courts rarely enjoy them. This court says that sort of thing doesn’t play here.
Rather than simply play by the rules designed to promote a discovery process necessary to reach a fair decision on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims, Giuliani has bemoaned plaintiffs’ efforts to secure his compliance as “punishment by process.” Donning a cloak of victimization may play well on a public stage to certain audiences, but in a court of law this performance has served only to subvert the normal process of discovery in a straight-forward defamation case, with the concomitant necessity of repeated court intervention.
The court notes Giuliani has been hit with several production orders and granted multiple time extensions in order to comply with orders. And he’s simply decided he’s not going to cooperate.
[T]he result of these efforts to obtain discovery from Giuliani, aside from his initial production of 193 documents, is largely a single page of communications, blobs of indecipherable data, a sliver of the financial documents required to be produced, and a declaration and two stipulations from Giuliani, who indicates in the latter stipulations his preference to concede plaintiffs’ claims rather than produce discovery in this case.
That’s the angle Giuliani is playing. It’s an incredibly stupid one. But he (and his hired counsel!) seems to think it might work.
Spoiler alert: it won’t.
Giuliani would like to have his proverbial cake and eat it too: He wants to bypass his discovery obligations now with stipulations that would leave him, somehow, free to raise his affirmative defenses to plaintiffs’ claims on appeal, with a record predicated on deficient discovery. This discovery shortcut is simply unfair and will not be permitted here.
Giuliani sort conceded a loss but never fully conceded the lawsuit. And now he no longer has the option to keep this lawsuit balanced precariously between life and death until he can suss out his exposure both here and in other libel lawsuits pending against him. Judge Howell pulls the plug on that scheme.
Rather than granting entry of default based on Giuliani’s stipulations, with their various carve-outs and reservations, default is entered here as a straight-up sanction for his discovery failures.
Let the bleeding begin!
With respect to Giuliani’s obligations to reimburse plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs, Giuliani is directed: (1) to reimburse such fees and costs associated with plaintiffs’ successful first motion to compel discovery, in the amount totaling $89,172.50, with interest on that amount from July 25, 2023; (2) to reimburse such attorneys’ fees and costs associated with plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions, pursuant to Rule 37(e); and (3) to ensure the Giuliani Businesses reimburse such fees and costs associated with plaintiffs’ successful motion to compel discovery from the Businesses, in the amount totaling $43,684. Should the Giuliani Businesses fail to timely reimburse plaintiffs the $43,684, Giuliani will bear that cost as a sanction under Rule 37(b)(2)(A), with interest on that amount to accrue from September 20, 2023.
Default judgment on the sanctions motions. The case proceeds to trial. That means Giuliani still has to turn over the documents he’s already been ordered to produce multiple times, which will no doubt be used against him as this goes in front of a jury to determine exactly how much more Rudy owes the election workers he defamed. Good times. And that should show other people in his position what exactly they’re getting in return for hitching their reputation to Trump’s fallen star.