Who is the judge in Trump’s civil fraud case?

New York Supreme Court Justice will decide the fate of Donald Trump’s business dealings in bench trial

Ariana Baio
Tuesday 03 October 2023 08:09 EDT

Donald Trump appears in court as civil fraud trial begins in New York

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has joined the exclusive group of jurists overseeing one of former president Donald Trump’s many trials.

This time, the trial is set in New York City civil court where Justice Engoron is presiding over the fraud case against Mr Trump, his adult sons and several Trump Organization executives in a lawsuit brought forth by New York attorney general Letitia James.

Already, Justice Engoron has shown to be a no-nonsense judge, having found Mr Trump liable for committing business fraud and stripped away the former president’s control over some of his notable properties.

In a trial that is expected to last three months, Justice Engoron will determine the fate of Mr Trump’s business dealings in the state as the trial to resolve claims in Ms James’ lawsuit and decide damages begins.

So who is the 74-year-old Justice (and former cab driver) presiding over the case?

Who is Justice Arthur Engoron?

Throughout the three years Justice Engoron has been handling Ms James’ civil case against Mr Trump, he has revealed himself to be a joke lover to break tension in the, sometimes grim, cases.

Last year, Justice Engoron quoted Yogi Berra when determining a date for the trial to begin saying, “I think it was Yogi Berra who said, ‘It’s deja vu all over again’”.

In a footnote of his recent summary judgment, Justice Engoron quoted a line from the 1933 film Duck Soup: “well, who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

Just like Mr Trump, Justice Engoron is a lifelong New Yorker, having grown up in Queens, lived in Long Island and attended school in New York – both Columbia University and New York University School of Law, according to The Associated Press.

His roots in the city run deep. He even took a job as a taxi driver while attending college in the 1960s.

Judge Arthur Engoron

After receiving his law degree, Justice Engoron worked as a law associate for several firms until 1991 when he became a law clerk for Judge Martin Schoenfeld.

In 2003, Justice Engoron was elected to the New York City Civil Court and then ran unopposed for a seat on the New York State Supreme Court in 2015.

Throughout his career, Justice Engoron has revealed bits of himself through court cases like that he protested the Vietnam War, he’s a free-speech absolutist and he is a lover of film and television.

But the quirkiness of Justice Engoron is not just what appears on paper.

The New York City Jjustice discourages members of the public from standing when he enters the room – something atypical, according to The New York Times.

He jokes with lawyers, like telling Mr Trump’s lawyers that the case “would be a love fest” during a procedural hearing in September, as noted by the AP.

How has Justice Engoron been involved in Trump’s case?

Justice Engoron was first assigned to assist in Trump-related cases in 2020 when he was asked to intervene in discussions between Mr Trump’s lawyers and Ms James’ office.

Since then, he’s delivered several rulings in favour of prosecutors like ordering Mr Trump to sit for a deposition, requiring Mr Trump as well as his adult children to comply with a subpoena to testify, holding Mr Trump in contempt of court and refusing to delay the trial.

Donald Trump and Justice Arthur Engoron of the state Supreme Court listen to opening arguments from his lawyer Alina Habba

Notably, Justice Engoron delivered the harshest ruling against Mr Trump in his summary judgment last week when he determined Mr Trump was liable for fraud.

“In defendants’ world, rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air,” Justice Engoron wrote.

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

What has Trump said about Justice Engoron?

In typical Donald Trump fashion, the ex-president has repeatedly claimed Justice Engoron is making decisions out of political motivation rather than fact.

On Truth Social, Mr Trump claimed Justice Engoron was a “Trump Hating Judge” and called him “unfair, unhinged, and vicious” in his presiding.

On day one of the trial, Mr Trump told reporters that Justice Engoron was a “rogue judge” – seemingly an attempt to disregard Justice Engoron’s knowledge or experience.

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