What happens when a person of low character, a person with few values and even fewer morals takes on a well-respected jurist? Read on ….
Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel is a United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. He was born in 1953, in East Chicago, Indiana (Indiana is one of the 50 states in the U.S.). His parents, while born in Mexico, have been in the United States for some 70 years, and are both American citizens. Curiel earned his B.A. from Indiana University in 1976, and his J.D. from Indiana University School of Law in 1979. He practiced law in private practice for ten years until 1989 when he became Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of California. In 1999 he became Chief of the Narcotics Division. In 2006, Curiel was appointed to the San Diego County Superior Court, a position he held until 2011 when President Obama nominated Curiel to serve as a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.
During his tenure as federal prosecutor in Southern California, he led a joint task force to take down a notorious Tijuana drug cartel. Law enforcement authorities got credible information that the cartel was planning to assassinate him and he lived under federal protection for more than a year. Curiel has a reputation among his peers for being “completely fair, highly skilled, and legally sophisticated.” Until last month, there have been no major controversies, no hint of prejudice or unfairness in his professional life. Enter Donald Trump and the Trump University case.
One of Trump’s less successful, now defunct business ventures, Trump University, is being sued in a class action suit by former ‘students’ who claim that the University was a scam, a ‘bait-and-switch’ operation that bilked them out of thousands of dollars for which they received no benefit. Much has already been written about the lawsuit and, while I could write an entire post about it, the lawsuit itself is not my focus today. Rather, I speak today of the controversy that Trump has stirred by his racial condemnation of Judge Curiel.
Judge Curiel is the judge who will preside over the Low v. Trump University lawsuit later this year. Last week, Trump, who cannot seem to keep his mouth shut for even 10 minutes, said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over the litigation given that he was “of Mexican heritage” and a member of a Latino lawyers’ association. Mr. Trump said the background of the judge was relevant because of his campaign stance against illegal immigration and his pledge to seal the southern U.S. border. “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. So, what this translates to, in my opinion, is “I, Donald Trump, am highly prejudiced against Mexicans, so I don’t want a judge who might not love me because I hate him based on his ethnicity.”
One can almost feel sorry for the entire Republican Party at this point, because they are now in a position of having to find some way to downplay or justify these remarks. Since there can be no justification, they are trying to downplay the entire incident, but that is pretty hard to do. First of all, some 80% of the public see his remarks as racist and his comments have spurned wide media coverage. Second, Trump himself keeps heaping insult atop of injury. In a recent interview with John Dickerson on CBS’ Face the Nation, Dickerson asked, “Let me ask you about, what does the Mexican heritage of the judge in the Trump University case have to do with anything?” A pretty straightforward question, right? Apparently there was no easy answer, however, as Trump fumbled with a rambling diatribe about the previous judge in the case, the plaintiffs, reviews, personalities, and ultimately Dickerson had to ask the question fully four times before Trump replied with “He is a member of a club or society, very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine. But I say he’s got bias. I want to build a wall. I’m going to build a wall. I’m doing very well with the Latinos, with the Hispanics, with the Mexicans, I’m doing very well with them, in my opinion. And we’re going to see, you’re going to see, because you know what, I’m providing jobs. Nobody else is giving jobs. But just so you understand, this judge has treated me very unfairly, he’s treated me in a hostile manner. And there’s something going on.” (Note that, while there is a wide variance between polls, the most any poll shows is that 37% of Hispanic voters would support Trump. Hardly a majority.)
The only thing “going on” here is that Trump seems to believe that all his power and money can buy him a favorable verdict, can buy him a judge, as it were. Judge Curiel has already given Trump one favour that I would never have done by moving the trial date, which was originally scheduled for this summer, to late November, after the election. A pre-election trial could indeed have been a very messy event for candidate Trump!
This whole thing, has led me to one thought: What type of judge, then, would satisfy Mr. Trump? Given that he believes Judge Curiel will not render a ‘fair’ verdict because of Trump’s prior racist remarks, who might he believe would, in fact, be capable of treating him fairly? Not a woman, that’s for certain! Not an African-American! Absolutely not a person of Middle-Eastern ancestry! Not a registered Democrat! So, who does that leave? A white, Anglo-Saxon, Republican judge is the only judge with whom Trump will ever be satisfied!
Now let me ask you, dear readers … if you were in court for anything … a speeding ticket, dispute over a debt, divorce, etc., do you believe you could pick and choose the judge who would hear your case? Never! Not a one-in-a-million chance, unless you had absolute proof that the judge had strong ties to the opposing party, and even then, perhaps not. Another thought: If Barack Obama had been unfortunate enough to have had a lawsuit pending against him in 2012, I strongly suspect that Mitt Romney would have been our president for these past 3+ years. Historically there has been little tolerance among the voting public for shenanigans of the sort we are seeing with Trump. Why is it deemed justifiable or unimportant now? Think about it.