Divisive, reckless, disheartening, politically unwise and demonstrating a lack of understanding about the role of the judiciary, ismhow many members of the state’s Hispanic legal community are describing Donald Trump’s on-going tirades and racial swipes against a federal judge hearing the Trump University fraud lawsuit.
Trump’s criticism of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s handling of a class action lawsuit against the now defunct Trump University “have no place on the campaign trail, even if just to rile up supporters.” said Alfredo G. Fernandez, president-elect of the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association.
David Feliu, a Waterbury-based attorney says politicians have criticized judges and even Supreme Court justices throughout U.S. history. Also, it is not uncommon for litigants on the losing end to blame the judge for losing.
However, what many Hispanic legal leaders have found unfortunate and disturbing is the personal nature of Trump’s attacks on Curiel and the Republican candidate bringing the judge’s ethnicity into his criticism.
Trump has suggested that after he is elected president “someone should look into” the Indiana-born judge. He also repeatedly has said Curiel is biased, a “hater” and a “Mexican,” the latter a group that the candidate has reviled throughout his campaign.
Edward Camacho, a Norwalk attorney, said, Trump’s comments, “provide a perfect window into Mr. Trump, as well as into the thinking and the world view of the people that follow him.” The Norwalk Democratic Town Committee chairman added, “When you have nothing to sell, nothing to contribute, you divide.”
Camacho said, that Curiel’s parents were Mexican immigrants and that his were born Puerto Rico, but what comes first is he is an American.
Fernandez said, “It is reckless to suggest that Judge Curiel’s ethnicity has compromised the integrity of his decisions from the bench in the course of the class action proceedings against Trump University.”
Furthermore, the incoming bar association president stated, “The CHBA is disheartened by what appears to be another example of Mr. Trump reducing someone to his heritage to explain a simple contrast in viewpoint.”
The Trump University lawsuit has become a big thorn in Trump’s side because it casts a shadow over one of his biggest boasts, his success as a business manager, and New York’s attorney general have called the operation a swindle.
On Thursday the New York City entrepreneur promised that when the fraud lawsuit is finished, he will have won and will reopen the for-profit school and again called the judge biased and unfair.
Camacho noted that if Trump “associates Mexicans with problems” such as the drug trade, “this Mexican” (Curiel) was a major narcotics prosecutor along the border when he was an assistant U.S. attorney in southern California.
Moreover, Curiel’s role in bringing down a major cartel in 2002 that operated along the Mexican-U.S. border reportedly made him a possible target for assassination by the Tijuana-based drug operation.
Rafael Pichardo, an immigration attorney, questioned Trump’s understanding of how the judiciary works and should know that federal judges are appointed for life.
In addition, Pichardo said Trump’s criticism of Judge Curiel is a “clear sign that Donald Trump would be a very problematic executive (president). He does not understand the role of the judiciary.”
As an attorney, Camacho said, “it is never a good idea to attack a judge.” He added, I don’t imagine his lawyers are too happy.”
However, Camacho said that the candidate’s public attacks won’t effect the lawsuit’s outcome. “The judge is very professional,” the attorney said, noting that Curiel, like himself but a few years earlier, had earned his law degree from Indiana University.
Camacho noted that the judge’s response to the Trump attacks was “very measured.”
In releasing some Trump University internal documents for use in the lawsuit, Curiel said that Trump “has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue.”
Robert T. Maldonado, president of the Hispanic National Bar Association has demanded that Trump apologize to “all Americans” for his “reckless rhetoric” after the said at a rally that Curiel is hostile to him. “He (the judge) is Hispanic, which is fine… but we have a judge who is very hostile,” the candidate said.
Early in June, when the attacks in Curiel continued, Maldonado issued the following statement: “Donald Trump continues to belligerently inject racial bias and divisive politics into his legal battles over the now-defunct Trump University. It shows a dangerous disregard and disrespect for separate and coequal branches of government.”
In terms of politics, Feliu, who is active in Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus, said it is unfortunate that a candidate for the highest office who is looking for support from all groups should make remarks that insult one group.
Camacho said, Trump has “simply not done the math,” with the Hispanic electorate’s role growing, “this is not a great strategy.”