Newspaper article International New York Times

A Long History of Litigation, Laced with Public Displays of Hostility to Judges

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Long History of Litigation, Laced with Public Displays of Hostility to Judges

Article excerpt

Unlike most plaintiffs, who try to curry the favor of judges, Mr. Trump can turn publicly hostile toward them, assailing their motives, biography and fitness.

The circumstances sound eerily familiar: Donald J. Trump and his legal team had suffered a setback in a major court case. So they leveled an attack on the presiding judge, calling him irredeemably biased and unfair.

"Your Honor," wrote a lawyer for Mr. Trump, "harbors deep-seated antagonism that would make impartial adjudication impossible."

The year was 2008, and Mr. Trump's arguments closely resembled those he is now making against Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, a federal judge in California overseeing a class action lawsuit against the defunct Trump University.

Today, Mr. Trump claims that Judge Curiel, who was born in Indiana, is incapable of objectively judging the case because of his Mexican heritage and record of being, in Mr. Trump's words, "a hater of Donald Trump."

Between 2008 and 2010, Mr. Trump's lawyers went further -- turning angry accusations into an unusual, elbows-out legal campaign to remove not one but two New York judges who oversaw the lawsuit. One judge was an African-American man, the other a white woman.

The episodes highlight Mr. Trump's unusual approach to the judiciary: Unlike most parties in court cases, who try to curry the favor of judges, he can turn publicly hostile toward them, assailing their motives, biography and fitness.

This week, Mr. Trump expanded his musings about courts, doubting whether a Muslim judge could fairly adjudicate a trial involving him. That earned him a rebuke from Hillary Clinton, who wondered on Monday whether Mr. Trump would soon claim "that a woman judge couldn't preside."

Through his a career, Mr. Trump has not always seen judges as the ultimate arbiters of legal principle, but as adversaries who deserve mockery or bulldozing when they do not agree with him.

Even in cases where he is merely a spectator, Mr. Trump has plenty to say. The judge overseeing the 2014 trial in South Africa of Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic runner, for the murder of his girlfriend, was a "moron," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. "Ridiculous decision," he said of the five-year sentence. Mr. Trump ridiculed a Pennsylvania judge appointed by President Jimmy Carter as "not his most brilliant appointment," and wrote that the judge was "a willing accessory" to any crimes of convicts she had released from prison.

He does this despite his close ties to a federal judge, Maryanne Trump Barry, his sister.

The New York case stands out. Mr. Trump and his lawyers singled out Justice Richard B. Lowe III, who was first elected to the New York Supreme Court in 2003. Throughout the case, which involved a Trump real estate development in New York City and a partnership with Hong Kong businessmen, Justice Lowe issued orders Mr. …

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