Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Stan Greene
Observer Staff Writer 

Gov. Schwarzenegger calls Judge Curiel "An American Hero"

Judge presiding over Trump University Case first appointed by Arnold in 2007


Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger posted on Facebook and Twitter Monday that Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was criticized by Donald Trump, "stood up to the Mexican cartels." Schwarzenegger appointed Curiel in 2007.

Judge Curiel is an American hero who stood up to the drug cartels," said Arnold. "I was proud to appoint him to the California bench."

Ironically, Schwarzenegger a Liberal Republican, will take over Trump’s vacated seat on the next season of Celebrity Apprentice. Arnold has said he cannot support Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for president of the United States in 2016, having won the most state primaries and caucuses and delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Trump University, and Trump himself, are involved in three ongoing lawsuits. The lawsuits have been invoked by Trump's rivals in Republican primary debates,[398] and Hillary Clinton has used the Trump University allegations against Trump in speeches and campaign ads.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Gonzalo P. Curiel, the presiding judge in two of the cases, stating that his Mexican heritage serves as a conflict of interest.

During a June 3, 2016 interview with Jake Tapper of CNN, Tapper asked Trump what Curiel’s rulings have to do with his heritage. Trump answered that, "I've been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall."

Tapper’s followup question was this: "So no Mexican judge could ever be involved in a case that involves you?" Trump responded: "No, he's a member of a society where, you know, very pro-Mexico and that's fine. It's all fine. But I think...he should...recuse himself..."

Trump also asserted that Judge Curiel is a friend of the attorney representing one of the plaintiffs, to which the lawyer responded that they had not been friends in any "social" setting.

Legal experts have criticized Trump's comments, and the Washington Post stated they were "racially tinged". Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump for president, disavowed Trump's comments about the judge because he believed that the statements were "the textbook definition of a racist comment." Meanwhile, Governor Chris Christie told reporters that he defended Trump's comments because Trump was simply expressing his opinions and that he was not a "pre-programed robotic politician".

Trump has accused Curiel of bias because of his membership in La Raza Lawyers of California, an association of Hispanic attorneys, saying he is a "member of La Raza". Former United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wrote on June 4 about an alleged link between the La Raza Lawyers of California and an advocacy organization called the National Council of La Raza, which has organized protests at Trump rallies: "The two groups are unaffiliated, and Curiel is not a member of NCLR. But Trump may be concerned that the lawyers’ association or its members represent or support the other advocacy organization".

On June 7, 2016, Trump said that his criticism of the judge had been "misconstrued" and that his concerns about Curiel's impartiality were not based on ethnicity alone, but rather on rulings in the case. He said that he was not categorically attacking people of Mexican heritage, while continuing to suggest a possible link between Curiel and National Council of La Raza, and a possible link between his decisions and his heritage.

While simply being Mexican is not legal grounds to get rid of Judge Curiel, socializing with one of the party's attorneys might be. Two sections of Title 28 of the United States Code, provide standards for judicial disqualification or recusal. Section 455, captioned "Disqualification of justice, judge, or magistrate judge," provides that a federal judge "shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

The section also provides that a judge is disqualified "where he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding"; when the judge has previously served as a lawyer or witness concerning the same case or has expressed an opinion concerning its outcome; or when the judge or a member of his or her immediate family has a financial interest in the outcome of the proceeding.

28 U.S.C. Section 144, captioned "Bias or prejudice of judge," provides that under circumstances, when a party to a case in a United States District Court files a "timely and sufficient Motion that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice either against him or in favor of an adverse party," the case shall be transferred to another judge.

The general rule is that, to warrant recusal, a judge's expression of an opinion about the merits of a case, or his familiarity with the facts or the parties, must have originated in a source outside the case itself. This is referred to in the United States as the "extra-judicial source rule" and was recognized as a general presumption, although not an invariable one, in the 1994 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Liteky v. United States.


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