Professor Arthur Hellman Comments to National Media on Trump Criticisms of Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel
Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman, an expert on judicial ethics, spoke to The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, and The National Law Journal on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's criticisms of United States District Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
Judge Curiel is presiding over the Trump University class-action lawsuits (Low v. Trump University, LLC; Cohen v. Trump). In recent days Trump has repeatedly attacked Judge Curiel for his Mexican-American heritage and has cited it as an "inherent conflict of interest."
Hellman told The New York Times the matter has put the judge in a difficult position.
“He can’t respond directly,” Hellman said. “He’s not supposed to talk out of court about proceedings before him. Judges have gotten into trouble defending themselves from attacks.”
Speaking to Time Magazine, Hellman said if a judge could be forced to step aside merely because of membership in a minority group of some kind, judges would constantly be removed from cases. If that were the standard it would result "in chaos," he said.
Hellman told the National Law Journal it would be “pretty disturbing” if Curiel decided to leave the case in light of Trump’s remarks.
“That then creates an incentive for at least high-profile litigants to get a judge off the case by making accusations, unfounded accusations, of bias or partiality,” he said.