SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association on Wedneday defended the Hispanic judge presiding over a lawsuit between Trump University and its former students, calling Donald Trump's recent remarks about the judge racist.
"Trump's repeated accusations of Judge (Gonzalo) Curiel display an utter lack of understanding for the role we play as attorneys and judges sworn to follow the law and uphold the constitution,'' said Luis Osuna, president of SDLRLA in a statement released jointly with Tom Homann LGBT Law Association and Justicia Criminal Defense Lawyers.
"We do not question Trump's First Amendment right to give his opinion as a named defendant to a civil suit. However, Trump is not the average civilian, he is the presumptive presidential nominee for one of the two major political parties. This fact should raise concerns among all Americans on both ends of the political spectrum,'' the statement continued.
"His persistent attacks on Judge Curiel are not only racist, but they provide an ominous portent of how Trump would use the power of the presidency to intimidate federal judges. Such wielding of executive power poses a threat to all Americans, as it is an independent judiciary and a respect of the separation of powers mandated by the constitution that secures our civil liberties and freedom. Moreover, Trump's comments only serve to foment the
public's distrust of our nation's judicial system, thereby undermining one of the three pillars of our democracy.''
The statement went on to clarify that the local San Diego organization is not affiliated with the National Council of La Raza, but a local diversity bar association whose focus is to advance the cause of equality, empowerment and justice for Latino attorneys and the Latino community in San Diego County through service and advocacy.
SDLRLA is made up of lawyers, judges, law students and other professionals who work with lawyers in a professional capacity. Its membership of about 300 consists of conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats and Latinos and non-Latinos alike, according to the statement.
"SDLRLA has not been involved in organizing any Trump protests, nor do we work in conjunction with NCLR. Furthermore, SDLRLA does not condone any of the violence exhibited by both sides of the protests taking place outside of Trump rallies throughout the country,'' the statement said.
"As fellow members of the professional legal community, it is incumbent upon us to defend Judge Curiel's unimpeachable integrity and to highlight the dangers of such criticism of a federal judge by a presumptive presidential
nominee,'' Osuna said.
"Judge Curiel, who is a U.S.-born citizen, is a well-respected member of the legal community. His reputation is held in high esteem by attorneys who have encountered him both as a federal prosecutor and as a state or federal judge,'' Osuna said.
Trump has suggested that Curiel's rulings in the lawsuit are biased against him because of the judge's Mexican heritage and Trump's strong positions against illegal immigration from Mexico. Curiel in an American citizen who was born in Indiana.