This article first appeared on the Verdict site. Donald Trump’s calls for Gonzalo Curiel, the judge presiding over the federal fraud lawsuit against Trump University, to remove himself from the case because of ethnicity-inspired bias against him have been rejected by responsible thinkers across the philosophical and legal spectra. Indeed, I think no reasonable defense of Trump’s position can be maintained. Yet the reflexive, almost automatic (and, in the end, correct) tendency to dismiss Trump’s efforts here as racist masks a complexity in the situation that is worth exploring. So in the space below I try to use Trump’s wrongheadedness as a “teachable moment” to unearth some important lessons about, among other things, when and how race and ethnicity may properly (and improperly) be thought to affect decision-making in the judiciary and analogous settings. Let us start with Trump’s explanation, elaborated by him more fully after his detractors began to weigh in. Trump disclaims any view that a judge of a particular racial background should presumptively be disqualified from hearing cases involving litigants or issues that might significantly affect people of the same ethnicity as the judge. Indeed, such a position would be impossible to maintain unless it were applied… Read full this story
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