Trump: Judge has 'absolute conflict' due to 'Mexican heritage'

Donald Trump.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Donald Trump now argues that the judge presiding over civil lawsuits against Trump University should be disqualified based on his ancestry, telling The Wall Street Journal Thursday that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel has "an absolute conflict" in presiding over the litigation since he is "of Mexican heritage" and a member of the La Raza Lawyers Association, a nonprofit that supports Latino lawyers.

The presumptive Republican nominee has previously made rude comments about Mexican immigrants and vowed to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and he told The Journal that Curiel's background must be mentioned because "I'm building a wall. It's an inherent conflict of interest." Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents, and Trump has brought up his heritage before during rallies; he's also called him a "hater of Donald Trump" and a "total disgrace."

Stephen Burbank, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told WSJ that it's "absolute nonsense" to say a judge's ethnicity should prevent him or her from presiding over a case, adding, "If this continues, I would hope that some prominent federal judges would set Mr. Trump straight on what's appropriate and what's not in our democracy." An aide to Curiel has said the judicial code of conduct prevents Curiel from responding to Trump's remarks. Trump's lawyers have yet to file any motion asking for the case to be reassigned to a new judge, but Trump told WSJ he might do so soon, claiming that other judges would have thrown out the case against his now defunct school.

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