AN “APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY?”

by Sharon Rondeau

(Jun. 23, 2016) — As reported on June 7 by the Conservative Treehouse blog, the federal judge presiding over two class-action lawsuits against Donald Trump’s former real estate instructional organization known as “Trump University” informed the U.S. Senate in a 2011 confirmation questionnaire that he is a “lifetime member” of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), which declared in a press release last fall a boycott of the Trump brand name worldwide.

On the same day Conservative Treehouse posted its article, a political uproar had ensued after Trump referred to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California Judge Gonzalo Curiel as being of “Mexican heritage” and accused him of bias in reference to the lawsuits, which will be heard following the November elections.

Trump is the presumptive 2016 Republican presidential nominee after garnering an overwhelming majority of delegates during the primaries. His closest competitors, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, each suspended their respective campaigns before the primaries concluded earlier this month.

At the time, NBC News termed Trump’s criticism of Curiel “verbal assaults,” and NPR reported it as an “attack” on account of his “Mexican ancestry.”

While some media asserted that Trump’s description of Curiel as being of “Mexican heritage” was inaccurate because Curiel was born in the U.S., Curiel’s parents were, in fact, both Mexican citizens when he was born.  Documents obtained by GotNews.com demonstrate that Curiel’s mother became a U.S. citizen in 1969, when Curiel was 16 years old, and that his father never naturalized, contrary to a June 2 article published in The New York Times.

On that point, The Times’s article reported:

Raul Curiel said their father, Salvador, arrived in Arizona as a laborer in the 1920s, eventually receiving citizenship and becoming a steelworker. Their parents were married in Mexico in 1946, and their mother, Francisca, became a citizen after joining her husband in the United States.

Via a CNN article, KRCRTV reported that both of Curiel’s parents “were naturalized citizens,” apparently relying on The New York Times’s interview with the brother which provided no documentation of the claims asserted by the brother.

A link on the HNBA website which led to a downloadable version of the press release which “calls for a boycott of all of Trump business ventures, including golf courses, hotels, and restaurants” now results in a “404 Not Found” error message.

However, the press release remains on the HNBA’s website and reads, in its entirety:

THE HISPANIC NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION REJECTS TRUMP’S RACIST ASSERTIONS

Washington, DC ­­­­ The Hispanic National Bar Association represents the interests of nearly 54 million Hispanics/Latinos in the United States, which is approximately 17% of the U.S. population. By his recent derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants, Donald Trump’s disrespect of such a large segment of the population of America is not only unbelievable, but outright wrong.  His comment that Mexico only sends rapists and criminals to the United States reveals a racist nature that cannot and will not go unnoticed by the Hispanic National Bar Association nor the Latino community.

Those who seek our highest public office should attempt to engage all Americans, not divide us. His comments are clearly divisive and racist and do nothing to promote equality and justice for all.  Trump’s statements reveal a bias that all Americans should reject and respond to accordingly.  We cannot stand silent and allow Trump to promote such racist and discriminatory behavior. This is the time for all Americans to take a stand against his insensitive, offensive and untrue statements.

The HNBA calls for a boycott of all of Trump business ventures, including golf courses, hotels, and restaurants.  We salute NBC/Universal, Univision and Macy’s for ending their association with Trump, and we join them in standing up against bigotry and racist rhetoric. Other businesses and corporations should follow the lead of NBC/Universal, Univision and Macy’s and take similar actions against Donald Trump’s business interests.  We can and will make a difference.

Cynthia D. Mares
HNBA National President

In its report, Conservative Treehouse referred to the confirmation questionnaire Curiel submitted to the U.S. Senate which lists his membership in the HNBA.  Article II, Section 2, clauses 2 and 3 of the U.S. Constitution gives the Senate the responsibility of providing “advice and consent” for the chief executive’s federal nominees, including judges.

On page 4 of the questionnaire, Curiel listed three other specifically Hispanic organizations in which he is a member. He was confirmed to the federal bench in 2012.

Immediately following Trump’s public comments about what he believes is the source of Curiel’s bias against him, various news organizations reported that Curiel is a member of the La Raza Lawyers of California and that no connection exists between the group and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

Founded in 1968, NCLR describes itself as “non-partisan.”  “Our mission is to create opportunities and open the door to the American Dream for Latino and other families,” it states under the “Who We Are” section of its website.

NCLR has expressed opposition to Trump’s candidacy, his remarks about Curiel, and characterized Trump’s intended changes to immigration policy should he win the presidency as containing “bigotry and hateful rhetoric.”  NCLR strongly opposes Trump’s proposal to eliminate “birthright citizenship,” conferred on any child born in the U.S. by what some believe is a misreading of the 14th Amendment, passed in order to grant U.S. citizenship to former slaves to avoid statelessness.

Judicial Watch terms NCLR as an “extremist” organization whose “former director,” Mari Del Carmen Aponte, was made ambassador to El Salvador by Barack Hussein Obama despite her association with “an agent of Communist Cuba’s spy agency.”

The website for La Raza Lawyers of California contains a link to the National Council of La Raza (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Early in the presidential campaign, Trump declared his desire to “build a wall” on the Mexico-United States border to contain illegal crossings, particularly from Mexico, where the majority of illegal entries occur.

When announcing his candidacy on June 16 of last year, Trump said:

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.  Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

The mainstream media termed Trump’s Mexico remarks “incendiary,” “nasty,” and “false,” although prior to becoming a judge, Curiel was a lead prosecutor of Mexican drug cartel members who trafficked their wares into the U.S.  According to The Los Angeles Times, “the cartel” threatened Curiel’s life, causing him to live under federal protection for approximately a year.

As noted by Conservative Treehouse, the mainstream media has not reported Curiel’s membership in HNBR in its discussions as to why Trump claims he possesses a bias against him.

A lifetime membership in the HNBR costs $5,000 or $6,000, depending on whether or not the member uses the “installment plan.”

According to Canon 2 of the “Code of Conduct for United States Judges,” “A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all Activities.”

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  1. Seems like a conflict of interest. Can we expect fair play here?
    Most likely not. Perhaps the judge should step down. Will he?
    Don’t count on it.