Judge in Trump hush-money trial received letter of caution for making $35 in political contributions

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New York Judge Juan Merchan poses for a picture in his chambers March 14. He is presiding in former President Donald Trump’s hush-money election-interference trial. (Photo by Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

The judge presiding in former President Donald Trump’s hush-money election-interference trial received a written letter of caution last year because of $35 in Democratic political donations that he made in 2020.

The judge, Judge Juan Merchan, gave $35 to the Democratic group ActBlue, earmarking $15 for Biden for President and $10 each to the Progressive Turnout Project and Stop Republicans, according to Reuters, which broke the news about the caution.

Law360 and the New York Times also have coverage.

An ethics complaint against Merchan was dismissed in July 2023 when the private caution was issued. It is unclear who filed the complaint with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, according to Reuters.

Political donations violate ethics rules on prohibited political activity, the commission said in a 2024 report cited by Reuters. Several dozen judges made such contributions in the past few years for mostly small amounts, the report said.

Merchan refused to recuse himself from Trump’s case after a May 2023 opinion by New York’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics appeared to address the situation. The opinion said a judge’s impartiality can’t reasonably be questioned based on “de minimis political contributions” or political activities by a judge’s first-degree relative, according to Law360.

Merchan’s daughter has worked as a Democratic political consultant.

See also:

When Trump criticizes judges online, calls for violence follow, analysis shows

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