When Donald Trump called out Judge Gonzalo Curiel as a “hater” unable to preside over the fraud case against his Trump University because he’s “Hispanic” and “Mexican,” has many in the San Diego law community angry at the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
The San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, a local diversity legal group, responded by calling on other bar associations to denounce Trump’s comments and demand that he retract his remarks.
“This judge is a highly regarded and prominent member of the legal community in San Diego,” Luis Osuna, the president of the Lawyers Association, told Fox News Latino.
“[Trump’s] comments reflect no knowledge of the history of Judge Curiel’s professional career,” he said.
Curiel spent ten years in private practice in California and Indiana, then 17 as a federal prosecutor in Southern California, rising through the ranks to chief of narcotics enforcement in San Diego.
In the 1990s, Curiel handled a case involving two alleged members of the Arellano Félix cartel in Tijuana, Mexico. Curiel lived under federal protection for a time after one of the men threatened his life.
Attorney Gregory Vega, Curiel’s boss at the time of the cartel proceedings, told NPR, “The United States Marshals Service removed Judge Curiel from his home and, for a year, had him live on a Navy base.”
He was appointed to California's Superior Court by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was appointed to the federal bench under President Barack Obama.
“Trump picked on the wrong guy,” San Diego-based attorney Jan Ronis, told Fox News Latino.
“Shame on Trump. These comments set the ugliest precedent in our color-blind society. To suggest that his [Curiel’s] race makes a difference undermines our judiciary,” he said.
Ronis tried three cases against Curiel when was a prosecutor, and he can’t imagine anyone finding a defense attorney who would have something bad to say about him.
“As a prosecutor and judge, he’s very fair and forthright,” Ronis said. “Just because a judge rules against you doesn’t make him a bad guy.”
Gregory Moran, a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune, told Fox News Latino that Curiel is a well-regarded judge; both on the state Superior Court and on the federal bench.
Moran is a member of the Union-Tribune’s investigative reporting team, focusing on legal affairs and federal agencies. Moran was in the first class of journalists selected to attend the Journalist Law School at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“Lawyers I spoke to thought he was fair-minded, had a very pleasant demeanor on the bench (some judges don’t), and he isn’t the kind of guy people dread appearing in front of,” Moran told FNL.
Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.