Thursday, June 2, 2016

Make America Conned Again: Trump University and the judiciary according to Trump

Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker explains Trump's view of judges reflecting Trump's world view: friend vs. foe.

The opening context is Trump's remarks about selecting judges to attack Hillary Clinton.

For starters, Trump’s statement reveals substantial ignorance about how the Supreme Court works. The justices don’t initiate cases or investigations; they hear appeals of cases decided in the lower courts. More important, the statement reveals Trump’s mindset when it comes to judges. As in most other areas, Trump is transactional about the judiciary. He appears to have no interest in legal philosophy per se; rather, he divides judges, as he divides most others, into the categories of friend and foe. What matters is not how judges think, but where they come out—on Trump’s side, or not.

This was most apparent in Trump’s extraordinary comments last week about United States District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a class-action fraud case against Trump in connection with the now-defunct Trump University. (Judge Curiel ordered some documents from the case released today.) In a speech last week in San Diego, where Curiel sits, Trump unleashed an attack against the judge that was unlike any by a Presidential candidate against a sitting judge in living memory. Earlier, Curiel had set the case, which was brought by former students at Trump’s school, for trial in late November, after Election Day. Trump, in response, said, “There should be no trial. This should have been dismissed on summary judgment easily.” He added, “Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.” Trump went on, “The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine.” The case, Trump concluded, was “rigged” against him. “This court system, the judges in this court system, federal court. They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace,” Trump said.

At a minimum, the attack was factually inaccurate. Curiel is not a “Mexican” but, rather, an American citizen who was born in East Chicago, Indiana. He has spent most of his life as a prosecutor or a judge. Now sixty-three, Curiel was an assistant U.S. attorney from 1989 to 2006, mostly focussing on narcotics cases, when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the California Superior Court. In 2014, President Obama nominated him to be a trial judge. This is, in short, not the record of any kind of “hater” but, rather, a story of an American dream vindicated. The only specific grounds for criticism that Trump and his team have offered (besides Curiel’s failure to rule for Trump) is that the judge is a member of the La Raza Lawyers Association, a group that advocates for the interests of Latino lawyers. Catholic, Jewish, and African-American lawyers have similar organizations, and membership in them is common and uncontroversial, including among judges. (The Volokh Conspiracy, a generally conservative legal blog hosted by the Washington Post, has a scathing analysis of Trump’s speech about Curiel.)

... For Trump ... judging is all personal, at least as far as he is concerned. He has no discernible views on judges except about whether they agree with him, case by case. As illustrated by his attacks on Judge Curiel, Trump’s style is bigoted name-calling, not reasoned critique. That’s his pattern—and not just about judges.

To learn more about the class-action fraud case brought against Trump over the defunct Trump University, see this morning's post by AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona. A few snippets give us a flavor of the blistering commentary by the Blue Meanie and others (e.g., the commondreams.org article by Lauren McCauley: Trump University Documents Expose Presumptive Con-Man-in-Chief).

From McCauley:

As New York Magazine's Eric Levitz pointed out, "Trump University isn't the only example of the Donald attempting to profit from Americans' economic anxiety: In 2009, the GOP nominee advertised a multi-level marketing scheme called the Trump Network as a 'recession-proof' way for struggling investors to get back into the black."

He cites Trump, who last week told voters in North Dakota, "Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing, I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I'm the only one."

Heads up, world. Donald Trump could be playing the title role in Elmer Gantry.. But he's not acting.

Levitz concludes, "The Republican nominee is literally, objectively, a con man."

The Meanie cites commentary by legal scholars.

Legal scholars said that Mr. Trump could face consequences for his criticisms.

“Mr. Trump’s conduct could be subject to sanction for indirect criminal contempt of court,” said Charles G. Geyh, a legal ethics expert at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law.

“He has impugned the honesty of the judge in a pending case,” Mr. Geyh said, “and has done so in the context of a political rally that seems calculated to intimidate by inciting anger among his supporters.”

The Meanie concludes:

"There’s a sucker born every minute” is a phrase frequently mis-attributed to self-promoter and showman P. T. Barnum. Donald Trump is the reincarnation of P.T. Barnum.

Trump might well author a sequel: The Art of the Con.

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