Meet Tanya Chutkan, the judge who won't allow Trump to call special counsel 'deranged'

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AP Judge Tanya Chutkan

Judge Tanya Chutkan of Washington, D.C., has been assigned to the election-fraud case against former President Donald Trump. She has been described as “temperate but unflinching.” Photo from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts via the Associated Press.

A judge with a reputation for being “temperate but unflinching” imposed a partial gag order on former President Donald Trump on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of Washington, D.C., ruled that Trump can make critical statements about the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Justice, and he can say he thinks that his federal prosecution for election subversion is politically motivated, report Law360, the New York Times, Politico and the Associated Press.

But Trump can’t attack special counsel Jack Smith, Smith’s family, Smith’s staff, court staff and witnesses, Chutkan said in a ruling from the bench.

“I cannot imagine any other criminal case where the defendant is allowed to call the prosecutor deranged or a thug,” Chutkan said, according to hearing coverage by Law360. “And I will not permit it here.”

Chutkan, 61, is a former public defender and civil litigator, according to a profile in the New York Times that described her as “temperate but unflinching.” She was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama and was confirmed in 2014.

“It has not been lost on Mr. Trump that Judge Chutkan, a Black woman who has a history of supporting Democrats, is the antithesis of a Mar-a-Lago habitué,” the New York Times reports. “Less known is her commanding presence in the courtroom, a reflection of her extensive trial experience and an upbringing in a prominent Jamaican family. Unfamiliar to the spotlight though she may be, Judge Chutkan has shown little sign of being intimidated by it.”

Trump has called Chutkan “VERY BIASED & UNFAIR” on social media. She has given up her 5-mile daily bike ride to the courthouse and now jogs with U.S. marshals, who then drive her to work.

Chutkan previously ruled against Trump in November 2021, when she ordered the release of White House records to the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot. She ruled then that President Joe Biden wasn’t required to honor Trump’s executive privilege claim.

“Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president,” Chutkan wrote.

Chutkan came to the United States to attend George Washington University, where she majored in economics. She graduated from law school at what’s now known as the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and started out at a law firm that specialized in civil litigation.

She later became a public defender, rising to become the lead defender for sex offenses and then homicides. She then joined Boies Schiller Flexner before becoming a judge.

In court, the New York Times reports, Chutkan “is given equally to bouts of tartness and courtroom banter.” She is known for being intelligent and fair in rulings that are very clear, according to defense lawyer Heather Shaner, who spoke with the New York Times.

In cases involving Jan. 6 defendants, however, Chutkan has imposed jail time in some cases when prosecutors did not request it. Chutkan’s sister, gastroenterologist and author Robynne Chutkan, said the judge has a “reverence for democratic institutions, whether it’s the orderly transfer of power or everyone being deserving of a fair defense.”

Chutkan’s father was born on a plantation and received a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school, Jamaica College. It was the first time that he wore shoes and experienced indoor plumbing, he told the New York Times. He went on to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Chutkan’s mother was a lawyer who previously was an English instructor, a dancer and a dance company director.

Chutkan is divorced from Peter Krauthamer, who had worked with her as a public defender. They have two children.

See also:

“In ‘savvy move,’ Trump special counsel avoids charge that bans violators from office”

“Trump gets bad news on election probes from special counsel Jack Smith and Georgia Supreme Court”

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