Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential race, recently criticized a relatively unknown New York judge as “DERANGED” and a “Highly Politicized Democrat” who harbored an intense dislike for him.
This same judge, Justice Arthur Engoron of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, will preside over a trial to determine the extent of liability for fraud incurred by Donald Trump and his family business. The trial will also determine whether they should continue operating in New York.
The civil lawsuit was filed by New York State Attorney General Letitia James in September 2022, alleging that Trump, his adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric, the Trump Organization, and others orchestrated a “staggering fraud.” The lawsuit accuses the defendants of inflating the value of Trump’s properties, including Mar-a-Lago, his Manhattan penthouse, office towers, and golf courses.
In a scathing decision on September 26, Justice Engoron found the defendants liable for fraud. He criticized Trump for suggesting, under oath, that the valuations were acceptable because he could find a “buyer from Saudi Arabia” to pay any amount he desired.
The judge must now decide whether to impose the $250 million in penalties sought by Attorney General James and whether Trump, his sons, the Trump Organization, and others can continue operating in New York.
Justice Engoron, who typically handles routine commercial disputes, has faced Trump’s criticism despite his reputation for intelligence and diligence.
Engoron’s involvement in Trump’s case began in 2020 when he oversaw disputes related to James’ evidence gathering during a three-year probe. The judge has previously held Trump in contempt, imposed fines, and criticized some of his arguments as “borderline frivolous.”
In his September 26 decision, Engoron accused the defendants of living in a “fantasy world” for claiming that documents inflating Trump’s assets could be disregarded.
The judge cited a line from the Marx Brothers’ 1933 comedy “Duck Soup” in his decision, asking, “Well, who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Justice Engoron has presided over high-profile real estate cases in the past, although some of his rulings were later overturned. He graduated from Columbia University and New York University’s law school and served in private practice and as a clerk for a state judge before becoming a judge in 2003. He was elected to the state Supreme Court in 2015 and has been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Despite his frustrations with Trump and his legal team, Justice Engoron has displayed moments of humor during proceedings, even joking that he smiled during the hearing, but “that was at the sketch artist.”