On Friday, May 17, 2024, Reuters reported that the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct had dismissed an ethics complaint against Juan Merchan, the judge presiding over the criminal hush money case against former President Donald Trump.

Justice Merchan has been overseeing the criminal trial of Trump, who has pleaded not guilty to falsifying business records related to a $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016. Daniels alleges she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, which he denies.

Last year and again last month, Trump’s legal team filed motions seeking to disqualify Merchan from the case, citing Merchan’s daughter’s work as a Democratic political consultant and $65 in political contributions Merchan made in 2020. The contributions included $15 to Biden for President, $10 each to the Progressive Turnout Project and Stop Republicans groups.

However, the Commission on Judicial Conduct investigated the complaint against Merchan and dismissed it in July 2023 with a caution. Under the commission’s rules, a caution can be considered if future misconduct occurs, but does not constitute formal discipline.

The commission administrator declined to comment on the investigation or its outcome, as the body’s proceedings are confidential unless public censure or discipline is imposed, or the judge decides to disclose details.

In its 2024 annual report, the commission noted that political contributions by judges, while generally violating rules, have been made in recent years by several dozen judges, mostly to federal candidates. Most contributions were modest, typically under $100 and sometimes as low as $5-10 dollars.

Last year, Merchan rejected Trump’s first recusal motion, citing a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics that Merchan’s small, over two-year-old political donations would not reasonably create an appearance of bias. Trump’s second recusal bid last month was also denied by Merchan.



Source: Reuters