Donald Trump believes U.S. Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel is prejudiced against him, claiming the judge has shown "tremendous hostility" to him.
The GOP presidential candidate said the judge, based in San Diego, ruled against him a number of times in the class action lawsuits against Trump University, which name Trump as a defendant.
"I think it has to do with perhaps the fact that I'm very, very strong on the border," Trump said on Fox News Sunday. "Now he is Hispanic, I believe. He is a very hostile judge to me."
Trump said the judge is biased because of Trump’s call to build a wall along the border.
Nothing could be further from the truth, long time defense attorney Gretchen Von Helms told NBC 7.
This is “absolutely unfounded,” Von Helms said. “Judge Curiel gave lots of his rulings before Trump made those comments about the border and illegal immigration.”
NBC 7 checked federal court records and confirmed Von Helms' claim. NBC 7 also reached out to Curiel for comment but his office says they can’t comment on any element of the ongoing cases.
Von Helms argued cases against the judge when Curiel was a prosecuting attorney. She also argued cases before him as a superior court judge and now as a federal judge. Her experience has shown the judge to be ethical and even-handed, she said, not likely to be influenced by Trump’s attack.
“Personally I think this judge would be one to just set it aside,” Von Helms said. “He is not going get involved with it, not get embroiled in a controversy. He is going to continue his job professionally because that is the kind of judge he is.”
Two different lawsuits allege Trump’s school engaged in deceptive practices and scammed thousands of students who enrolled in response to claims the school would make them rich in the real estate market. Both cases will be tried in San Diego.
Trump's attorneys have repeatedly defended the school, claiming the lawsuits are politically motivated.
During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Trump said, "This is a case that should have been thrown out a long time ago, in the opinion of many great lawyers."
The class action lawsuits are set to begin in San Diego this spring. Trump is on the witness list for both the plaintiffs and the defense.