This week, many in the press, some who knew better, touted the demand for jury trial made on behalf of Prince Andrew, a bold move evidencing the Prince’s intention to fight to defend his honor to the death. It’s no such thing.
While the Duke of York has denied the claims that he was one of the people who sexually abused Virginia Giuffre, when she was allegedly sex-trafficked by the deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein, when Giuffre was still a teen, a demand for jury trial, is itself, a procedural matter and has little to do with the parties’ ultimate litigation intentions.
The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution gives parties a right to a trial by jury. In order to preserve that right, each party has to request (it’s called a “demand” in legal parlance, but is nothing more than a formulaic request) a jury trial early on in a case. The Plaintiff can make such a request in the body of the complaint itself. The defendant, in this case, Prince Andrew, can make the request after being served with the complaint. In some states, the “demand” entails nothing more than checking a box on a judicial form.
There are some civil cases, like those involving an interpretation of legal documents (i.e. breach of contract or intellectual property disputes) where one or both parties will seek a bench trial, rather than a trial by jury, but in personal injury cases involving physical victims, a jury trial is requested in the vast majority of cases, because lay people, not judges, are in a better position to judge pain, people, human suffering, and believability.
For procedural reasons, so that the court can plan and budget for a jury ahead of time, the parties must both demand a jury trial and post jury fees to pay the jurors, before there has been much investigation or development in the litigation. Thus, the demand is usually made before there has been much assessment of the evidence at all. Making a demand for jury trial usually just means that because the court is requiring you to act early, you’re simply not ready to waive the right to trial by jury yet. It doesn’t mean you already know that you want to present your position to 12 people.
Here, because Giuffre had already asked for a jury trial, Andrew’s legal team already knew that they had no choice in the matter. It was going to a jury, even if their client preferred otherwise. Faced with that inevitably, they saved face by following Giuffre’s suit and seeking a jury trial too.
The truth is, innocent or not, Andrew would probably fare better before a judge who might be less emotional than 12 lay people and make decisions based on text book law, rather than bias in favor of sympathetic witnesses. In America, where we don’t believe in a monarchy and fought to get rid of both royalty and high tea taxes, Andrew cannot hope to be tried by a “jury of his peers.” Instead, he risks facing cynical Yankees who resent classist snobs, born into palaces we don’t even allow in our country.
George Washington did not want to be seen as a king, nor did his constituents want him to be, not after having fought for their independence from Britain. Even almost 250 years later, “Prince” Andrew’s status alone might prejudice American jurors against him and in favor of Giuffre, a Sacramento native who is 23 years his junior. In all likely the Prince does not want a jury, but our legal system is set up in a manner that requires that you either request one at the beginning of litigation, before all of the proof the opposing party has against you is known, or possibly lose the right to have one forever.
In requesting a jury trial, all Andrew’s attorneys did was take a procedural step that the majority of defendants in civil cases also take. The media reported that the royal family was surprised and dismayed because he demanded a jury trial. Why would they be? It’s a routine court filing, not tantamount to Winston Churchill declaring, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. ”
Demanding a jury trial at the outset of a case, does not mean that a defendant won’t settle out of court later on. Alternatively, if both parties agree, a demand for jury trial can be withdrawn and the case can be heard before only a judge, instead.
Doubtless the Prince has views on how to defend this action to maximize his chances of redeeming himself in the eyes of the public. But a request for jury trial is not a reflection of his conviction. It’s a perfunctory filing. When covering celebrity cases, the media often makes ordinary litigation events sound profound or ominous. For instance, an answer to a complete will usually deny all of the allegations in the pleading and allege boilerplate affirmative defenses.
Andrew’s answer to Giuffre’s complaint was no different:
Andrew’s answer to the Giuffre complaint contains a denial of all claims and affirmative defenses that are common in most cases and not unique or specific to his relationship (or lack thereof) with the Plaintiff. When he seeks discovery from her (consisting of questions, document demands and requests that she admit or deny certain statements), it will be consistent with an exchange of information both sides request in all cases, but I’m sure the media won’t report it that way. They’ll characterize a simple set of interrogatories as a shocking turn of events.
With Prince Andrew’s alleged involvement in rape, Ghislaine Maxwell’s conviction and Jeffrey Eptein’s suicide (or was it murder?) this case already has an abundance of scandal and sensationalism. There is no need for the already outrageous facts to be enhanced or exaggerated by news that is bureaucratic, not explosive.