Federal District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom President Donald Trump criticized during the 2016 presidential campaign, will hear a case against Trump’s proposed border wall project in a San Diego courtroom on Friday.
The San Diego-area ABC News affiliate reports:
The case, which is being brought by the state of California and multiple groups, challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s power to waive environmental laws in their construction of a border wall.
District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel is scheduled to hear the case on Friday in his San Diego courtroom.
The plaintiffs argue that the Trump administration is violating the Constitution and state laws because it is not “conducting any environmental review or complying with any environmental protection laws.” But the federal government, citing a 1996 immigration law, says it has the authority to waive environmental laws in order to build the wall, a top campaign promise of Trump’s.
The administration notes that previous challenges to this law have been unsuccessful, saying it “has been repeatedly upheld in the face of legal challenges.”
Trump criticized Judge Curiel in 2016 when he was presiding over a fraud lawsuit filed against Trump University.
As Breitbart News reported at the time:
In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Trump reiterated earlier claimsthat the federal judge presiding in a fraud case against Trump University in California could be biased against him simply because he is Hispanic.
Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, of the Southern District of California, was nominated by President Barack Obama, and later confirmed by voice vote in the Senate in 2012 without controversy.
After attending Indiana University for both college and law school, and before becoming a judge, he served for 17 years as a federal prosecutor in California, specializing in narcotics–which, theoretically, should endear him to Trump, who has made stopping the flow of drugs a key point in his border policy. Curiel also happens to be Mexican-American.
Trump has not explained clearly why Curiel’s background means he would be unfair, and he has not said whether he plans to ask the judge to recuse himself.
In he event, Judge Curiel delayed the case until after Election Day. The parties settled for $25 million, with “no admission of liability or wrongdoing by Trump or Trump University,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.