“The Truth”

What is “The Truth”?

The President of the United States’ lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has been (rightly) criticized and mocked for saying that “Truth Isn’t Truth”. What the heck does that mean? Is this just another loony iteration of “alternative facts?” Maybe.

The issue of what “The Truth” is has arisen many times. Some have observed that “The Truth” can bend and shift depending on one’s ultimate goal in, e.g., real estate dealings. Others say that “The Truth” can’t be handled. Yet others note that “The Truth” is “surprisingly difficult to define.”

As much as I’d like to jump on the bandwagon and call Mr. Giuliani out for how ridiculous (and Ministry of Love-ey) his “Truth Isn’t Truth” remark is, it appears that in context he was, apparently, merely articulating – albeit in the most verbally clumsy and embarrassing way possible – the unremarkable principle that “The Truth” is not precisely ascertainable, particularly where – as is common in circumstances giving rise to litigation – there is more than one version of events.

Consider, for example, a case involving a car accident at an intersection where the cars collide at right angles and both drivers – surprise! – say “my light was green.” What is “The Truth” here? Assuming the intersection lights were functioning correctly (i.e., they weren’t both simultaneously green), who is right? One driver had the green, and the other did not.

As another example, consider a female worker who says that her boss terminated her because she did not acquiesce to his demand that she indulge him sexually – thus subjecting her to quid pro quo sexual harassment. Her boss, unsurprisingly, denies making any such comment. What is “The Truth”? Either the sexual demand was made, or it wasn’t.

In each of the above scenarios, if the case gets that far, a jury will issue a verdict embodying its assessment of all the evidence (including witness credibility). This is the closest the law comes to pronouncing “The Truth” – or, at least, “The Truth As Assessed By the Finder of Fact In Light of the Evidence.” That is, after all the linguistic basis for the word “verdict.”

There, Rudy. I fixed it for you.

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