Opinion

Judges Can Belong To La Raza But Not The Boy Scouts

Trump Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Donald Trump has had quite the week. Just when naysayers like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio begrudgingly accepted the decision of a majority of Republican voters and threw some lukewarm support to the presumed nominee, Trump went and did it again, going after the judge presiding over his Trump University litigation.

Not content to remain within the guard rails of the legal system and have his attorneys call for the judge to recuse himself over potential conflicts, Trump went on the offensive and questioned the judge’s ability to be impartial given his Mexican heritage and Trump’s immigration reform plans. In an interview with Jake Tapper, Trump did not back down, “He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.”

Immediately the anti-Trump chorus was loudly singing how Trump was a racist. Even pals like Newt Gingrich jumped on Donald, calling his remarks “inappropriate” and “inexcusable.” Paul Ryan, never having warmed to the idea of a Trump candidacy described Trump’s comments as, “A textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Leaving the racist bit aside since ‘Mexican’ is not a race, let us instead focus on the judge’s associations. Should that matter? Can’t a judge separate his personal opinions from his job? A surgeon, such as myself, may on occasion operate on a prisoner serving time for a horrendous crime. I am able to compartmentalize my personal feelings and do my job fixing a damaged eye. Can a judge do the same? Their work involves more thought and perception than the more mechanical task of a surgeon.

Why not ask a judge, say one serving on the U.S. Supreme Court? Justice Sonia Sotomayor believes, “Our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.” So maybe Trump’s concerns, despite being stated a bit clumsily and crudely, may be warranted.

What about associations? Judge Gonzalo Curiel, presiding over the Trump University case, served on a scholarship selection committee that selected an illegal alien from Central America to receive a law school scholarship.

Judge Curiel is also a member of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association. La Raza is no stranger to politics, protests, and community agitation. They played a prominent role in the protests and riots in March at a Donald Trump rally in Chicago. This is the same La Raza that is strongly pro-illegal immigration. In other words, encouraging breaking the law.

But the judge wasn’t out there protesting. Guilt by association? He just happens to be a member of a La Raza subsidiary organization. Why the fuss? Judges have the same freedom of association that the rest of us have. They can belong to clubs or organizations, even those that discriminate for or against certain groups of people. Or can they?

California state judges had been banned since 1996 from joining groups practicing “invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.” Originally the Boy Scouts were exempted, but that changed in early 2015 when the California Supreme Court ruled that judges had to sever their ties with the Boy Scouts. Why? Because the Boy Scouts prohibited gay troop leaders at that time, thus falling under the ignominious classification of an organization that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

Once the Boy Scouts changed their rules about a year ago, now allowing openly gay Scout leaders, the California judges had their restriction lifted. California judges are also banned from country clubs that don’t admit women or Jews. Is that legitimate? That’s a question likely heading to the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis of freedom association under the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly.

Not only California judges but also the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which states, “A judge should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin.” Does that include La Raza?

Does La Raza discriminate on the basis of race or national origin? A U.S. Congressman provided the answer at a La Raza conference in 2014. As Breitbart put it, “Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) believes Hispanics should get amnesty and citizenship to punish Americans who are against illegal immigration.”

Suppose a judge was part of a white supremacist group that wanted to punish Americans who were against border security? How would that fly? La Raza discrimination is OK but the Boy Scouts are not welcome?

Sensible Republicans, if there are any left, should take a deep breath and not pig pile onto Donald Trump every time he says something that might be offensive to someone somewhere. Republican leaders such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are far more critical of Trump than they ever were of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or Harry Reid. That fact has not escaped the notice of a large number of Republican primary voters.

Beyond the initial hype, Donald Trump makes a legitimate point about judicial bias and impartiality. After watching the selective justice meted out by the Obama Justice Department for the past 7 years, Trump’s concerns are valid and should be addressed rather than shut down by reflectively crying racism.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon, radio personality, and writer. Follow him on Facebook  and Twitter.