By Eileen Sullivan
A federal jury in Washington ordered Rudy Giuliani last week to pay $148 million in damages to two former Georgia election workers he defamed by spreading baseless claims that they tried to steal votes from Donald Trump on Nov. 3, 2020.
Giuliani, who faces a litany of legal and financial troubles, has said he will appeal the verdict.
Here’s what happens next:
The judge will order a judgment on what Giuliani must pay.
The jury awarded the two former poll workers, Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who are Black, $148 million. That was after they gave hours of emotional testimony describing the relentless threats and attacks they received, including from people who said they should be hanged for treason or lynched. The total included a combined $75 million in punitive damages; compensatory damages of $16.2 million to Freeman and $16.9 million to Moss; and $20 million to each of them for emotional suffering.
Before Freeman and Moss can collect any money, the judge, Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, will need to enter a judgment ordering the amount Giuliani is required to pay. In civil cases like this one, the judge can change the amount determined by the jury.
Once Howell rules on the amount, Giuliani can appeal the decision.
The money will not come immediately.
“Defense lawyers can string out these cases for pretty substantial periods of time before payments actually have to be made,” said Robert Rabin, a professor at Stanford Law School with expertise on torts and compensations.
If Giuliani appeals the verdict, Freeman and Moss could ask the judge to make him post a bond to secure some of his assets while an appeal is pending, said Christopher Mattei, a lawyer who represented the Sandy Hook families in their defamation case against Infowars founder Alex Jones.
The women can also request a special proceeding to look into ways to collect the judgment from him, such as garnishing his wages. Giuliani, who served as the mayor of New York City and as a federal prosecutor, cannot currently work as a lawyer because of disciplinary actions against him.
Giuliani refused to comply with the court’s requirement to disclose financial documents that would show his net worth, including how much money he makes from media endeavors such as his podcast.
And at any point, Giuliani and Freeman and Moss could agree on a settlement.
Giuliani will still be on the hook, even in bankruptcy.
After Friday’s verdict, Giuliani was likely to file for bankruptcy protection, according to a lawyer familiar with his legal situation.
The damages he owes Freeman and Moss are considered an “intentional tort,” meaning Giuliani was aware of what he was doing when he defamed the women by spreading baseless lies about election fraud, and bankruptcy would not erase his liability.
“It may be that Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss are able to chase Rudy Giuliani to his grave to catch every penny they can out of his pockets,” Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor, said recently on MSNBC. McQuade was a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan from 2010 to 2017.
If Giuliani, who is 79, dies before Freeman and Moss receive compensation, they could still collect compensatory and emotional damages against his estate, Rabin said.
Giuliani faces additional legal challenges.
Giuliani is under indictment in Georgia. A local prosecutor brought racketeering charges against him, Trump and others for their efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia.
He faces a defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems, one of the largest voting machine vendors in the country. The company accused Giuliani of spreading lies about the company as part of his efforts to keep Trump in office.
Giuliani’s former lawyer, Robert Costello, is also suing him for $1.3 million in unpaid legal fees. And a former employee, Noelle Dunphy, filed a lawsuit in May, claiming that Giuliani harassed and assaulted her beginning in 2019. Giuliani has denied the allegations.