Donald Trump’s attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel is despicable. Saying that someone has an “inherent conflict of interest” because of their heritage is pretty much a textbook example of racism. It seems like any semblance of a fig leaf that Trump’s rhetoric is about immigration and his wall rather than animus toward an entire community of 55 million has been blown away.
For the record, Judge Gonzalo Curiel was a member of La Raza Lawyers Association, a respected network of local bar associations of Latino lawyers and judges in California. We are the National Council of La Raza, a different group and the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.
There are in fact hundreds if not thousands of organizations, media outlets, and associations that use “La Raza.” There is nothing nefarious about the use of this term. It simply refers to the Hispanic people and it is a nod to our common heritage. But apparently that heritage is the reason Donald Trump believes he cannot get a fair shake from Judge Curiel. It brings back awful memories of more than a few people saying that Thurgood Marshall should not have been the first African-American Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court because of his long and storied involvement in the civil rights movement.
Judicial ethics prevent Judge Curiel from responding to personal attacks against him, but evidence of his qualifications, integrity, courage, and patriotism is extensive. As has been widely documented, Judge Curiel is a U.S. citizen and a former federal prosecutor who brought drug cartel kingpins to justice, refusing to back down even when faced with death threats. In 2006, he was appointed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to a judgeship in San Diego. Judge Curiel was nominated to the federal district court in 2011 and confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in 2012.
And any concern that politics have impacted his actions here should be dispelled by the fact that he has presided over the Trump University case since 2013, well before there was any hint that any of the parties involved might become a political candidate. In truth, he postponed the trial until after the presidential election expressly to prevent it from having an effect on the presidential campaign.
All this is evidence that shows how bigoted and ridiculous Trump’s railings against Curiel are and the judge deserves an apology. The bottom line: It is deeply offensive that anyone would cite someone’s ethnicity as the basis to question or disparage their qualifications. It is even more disturbing when that behavior comes from those who seek to represent our country.