Gonzalo Curiel has been a target of hate before, but never by a presidential candidate before. But Donald Trump has launched a full scale assault on Curiel, a judge on some Trump University civil suits. Trump has said Curiel presiding over the case is a conflict of interest for a number of reasons. These reasons have been decried by Democrats and Republicans alike as unnecessary. But again, Curiel is no stranger to an attack.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Curiel is The Presiding Judge on Two Lawsuits Against Trump University
Curiel has been involved with Trump University cases since 2014. One case came in February, called Tarla Makaeff vs. Trump University. Curiel certified the case a class-action in California, Florida, and New York. The plaintiffs claimed Trump misrepresented a number of statements regarding the University. Included in those statements were that the university was accredited, and that Trump would choose experts to teach the classes. The trial for this suit is set for November. Another suit, Art Cohen vs Donald J. Trump, led Trump to try to dismiss the case, which was being pursued as a racketeering suit. Curiel denied this request.
More recently, Curiel ordered for internal documents to be released for a lawsuit against the company last week, according to The Washington Post. The Post was actually who requested the documents be released. That is what has sparked Trump’s outrage.
2. Donald Trump Thinks Curiel is a Conflict of Interest For Reasons That Include Calling Him “Mexican”
Trump has unleashed a tirade in the wake of Curiel’s order, including a 12 minute rant at a rally. In the rant, Trump referred to Curiel as “the judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican.” Because of his Mexican heritage, Trump called Curiel’s presiding over the lawsuits “an absolute conflict,” and added “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest.” Trump’s people are also noting that Curiel is a member of the La Raza Lawyers Association, a group of Hispanic lawyers. This, however, is different from the La Raza group that has been protesting Trump rallies.
Curiel is not actually a Mexican citizen, but rather a Mexican-American. He is first-generation, mentioning that his parents were Mexican immigrants in his 2012 Senate confirmation hearing.
3. Curiel is an Obama Nominated Judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of California
Curiel was one of four judges that President Obama nominated for the United States Court District Bench. Of the candidates, the President said “These individuals have demonstrated the talent, expertise, and fair-mindedness Americans expect and deserve from their judicial system.”
Prior to this, Curiel had been an Assistant United States Attorney in California since 1989. He had also briefly served as their Chief of the Narcotics Enforcement Section. Born in Indiana, Curiel got both his undergraduate degree and his J.D. at Indiana University.
4. He Was a Target of the Tijuana Drug Cartel
One of Curiel’s notable moments in the 1990s was after he attempted to extradite gunmen for the Tijuana drug cartel to Mexico. The Los Angeles Times reported that Emilio Valdez Mainero, one of the gunmen, desired to kill Curiel, and told an informant that he planned to have him assassinated, and was trying to get permission from cartel leaders to have him murdered.
Little is known about Curiel’s protection at the time, but the LA Times did note that he was “living under tight security since he took up the extradition case against two alleged cartel henchmen.”
5. Curiel’s Brother Says He’s Unfazed by Trump’s Comments
Curiel’s 67-year-old brother Raul, who resides in Indiana, was asked about how his brother was handling Trump’s comments. The Wall Street Journal quotes Raul Curiel as saying “He’s taking it pretty much in stride.” It’s the kind of even-keeled nature that would allow one to become a judge that presides over such important cases.