Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry, who is a federal appellate court judge in Philadelphia, should teach her brother a lesson, said former federal judge Vaughn Walker in an interview with Big Law Business.
“Given some of the comments he has made, it’s obvious she has a lot of teaching moments ahead of her with her brother and the role of the judiciary,” said Walker on Friday.
Trump, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, made remarks this week that a federal judge in San Diego had a conflict of interest in overseeing a fraud case against Trump University, simply because he is of Mexican heritage.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, is conflicted because his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. Trump has made his tough stance on illegal immigration a pillar of his presidential campaign.
“I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Trump told the WSJ.
When asked what Trump’s sister should teach him, Walker said “grade school civics.”
“Political discourse is always somewhat cartoonish in a way, and hyperbolic, but there are limits, and I can’t think of any serious presidential candidate who has stretched the limits to the degree which Trump has,” he said.
Walker is no stranger to accusations of bias based on personal background. In 2010, Walker ruled that Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, was unconstitutional. In 2011, opponents of gay marriage filed a motion to vacate that judgment based on the fact that Walker is gay.
In that case, U.S. District Judge James Ware denied the motion, calling the accusations warrantless. He said the notion that “all people in same-sex relationships think alike” is an unreasonable presumption.
Walker said that his own case differs from Trump’s recent attack against Curiel because the case is still pending.
“It’s unwise, to say the least,” said Walker, when asked how Trump’s comments could affect the Trump University litigation. “The only thing one can figure is that Trump must sense or perceive that some damaging information is likely to come out of these proceedings and what he is attempting to do is set the stage for some contention ... that the proceedings have been unfair.”
Trump did not respond to a request for comment placed through his office.
A spokeswoman with O’Melveny & Myers, the law firm representing Trump in the Trump University case, did not return a request for comment about whether the firm plans to take any legal action to disqualify Curiel.
In the Trump University case, plaintiffs in two class-action lawsuits are claiming the school misled students into paying as much as $35,000 for real-estate seminars. Trump has maintained that the vast majority of students gave the school a good rating and said it was a positive experience, according to Bloomberg News.
Shira Scheindlin, another former federal judge, called Trump’s remarks about Curiel “outrageous.”
She said as a judge, Curiel cannot speak about pending litigation publicly. So it is important, in her view, that bar associations, the media, and other members of the legal community defend him, she said.
“It’s so hard to defend yourself against an unfair attack,” said Scheindlin. “It’s still a pending matter.”
She said his public comments could backfire because they draw attention to a legal proceeding that Trump might not want aired so publicly.
“It was a high profile matter to begin with. Him making a media circus because of his comments, it just raises the stakes,” said Scheindlin. “For him, it may have been a tactical error. Who knew about this case? Probably only lawyers knew... But now, by making the case he made, now everybody knows about it.”
In the WSJ interview, Trump also accused Curiel of having a conflict in the case because a plaintiff’s lawyer bringing the case against Trump University worked with Curiel as a federal prosecutor years ago.
The lawyer, Jason Forge of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, sits as a Senior U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She did not respond to a voice message left with her chambers on Friday.
“She’s a very nice person, a very able judge,” said Walker. “I don’t know her, but I met her two or three times. She has a very good reputation. Once in a while things happen in your family that you would just as soon not happen. This may be one of them. Though that’s speculation on my part. I have no reason to know what her feelings are.”
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