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Legal Experts Have Bad News for Civil Rights Suits Against Kyle Rittenhouse

Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP

Civil rights lawsuits in the Kyle Rittenhouse case have been something of a topic for conversation, especially since the young man was found "not guilty" of all charges on November 19. Except it looks like there's bad news for anyone hoping to collect from Rittenhouse, since William Jacobson, a legal analyst who is a professor at Cornell Law School and founder of Legal Insurrection, told the Washington Examiner they "will fail."


A unanimous jury found Rittenhouse not guilty because they believe he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz in self-defense. Jacobson indicated that the self-defense argument "will be just as overwhelming in a civil case." He also shared that "[t]here is no obvious basis for a civil rights prosecution against Rittenhouse."

For someone to be found guilty in a civil suit, the test is of a preponderance of evidence, rather than reasonable doubt, though Jacobson shared that test will fail too.

In reporting for the Washington Examiner, Kaelan Deese also highlighted an op-ed for Fox News from Jonathan Turley, a law professor and constitutional law expert.

As Professor Turley mentioned about a Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit:

The Justice Department does not have an office for the prosecution of "miscarriages of justice" due to errant jury decisions. 

Rittenhouse was acquitted on state charges by a state jury. Moreover, while some have called for reducing self-defense protections, the jury applied the law as it currently appears on the books. It is not allowed to simply ignore the law to seek our own criminal justice rules. 

The Rittenhouse jury faithfully applied the Wisconsin law and came to a well-founded verdict of acquittal. It is a dangerous precedent to investigate jury decisions simply because you disagree with their decisions.

There is also no clear basis for a civil rights prosecution. Rittenhouse is White and shot three White men. He was not accused of a hate crime. Moreover, he is not a member of law enforcement or government agency, so he did not deprive anyone of their civil rights under federal law.


Where there may be more of a claim would be in a civil lawsuit on behalf of Rosenbaum and Huber, as I previously highlighted

And, as Deese reported:

The families of the deceased protesters, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, might have an actionable case for a civil liability case, some experts have noted, pointing to the families of Ron Goldman and Denise Brown who filed a civil lawsuit against O.J. Simpson after a jury cleared the former athlete of double murder charges. A civil panel found Simpson liable for Goldman's and Brown's deaths, and he was forced to pay a sum of the $33.5 million judgment.

Some legal analysts say the burden of proof by a preponderance of evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt could prove advantageous to prosecution if a civil case was brought against Rittenhouse.

Turley also wrote that:

The risk of such torts actions is that they proceed under a lower standard of proof. Rather than shouldering the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of the prosecution, the plaintiffs would have to only prove responsibility by a "preponderance of the evidence." However, that is no guarantee of conviction. 


When attacked, Rittenhouse is authorized under common law to use commensurate force.  While Wisconsin does not have a "Stand Your Ground" law, the common law has always recognized such a right and did not require a person to retreat before using force.

There is also more leeway in the admission of evidence in civil cases on both sides. That could further complicate any recovery by these plaintiffs. 

Finally, Wisconsin is a "modified comparative negligence" state. Accordingly, any plaintiff (or his estate) is barred if he is 51 percent or more at fault.


While it may not be likely for the DOJ to succeed in a civil rights lawsuit against Rittenhouse, that hasn't stopped the Left from screaming about race and painting Rittenhouse as a "white supremacist."

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who is also the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and thus should really know better, misled on the facts of the case to claim that in a tweet that the verdict "justifies federal review."

As Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), who is also on the committee, told Dana Loesch on her program last week, however, "at the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that the people are sovereign."

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