Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing former President Donald Trump’s case in Manhattan, violated New York’s Code of Judicial Conduct by making three donations to Democrats in 2020, which could be grounds for an ethics investigation, according to several legal experts and former prosecutors.
Under Section 100.5 of the New York Code of Judicial Conduct, sitting judges cannot “directly or indirectly engage in any political activity.” Prohibited political activity includes “(h) soliciting funds for, paying an assessment to, or making a contribution to a political organization or candidate.”
The New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics’s yearly-updated handbook makes this clear, stating:
A sitting judge may not make political contributions at any time, even to a U.S. presidential candidate or to a federal congressional candidate outside of New York State (Opinion 11-146; 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][h]).
Furthermore, the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct states that unless permitted by law, a judge shall not “solicit funds for, pay an assessment to, or make a contribution to a political organization or a candidate for public office.”
However, Merchan — a New York state judge — made three political donations in 2020, according to public Federal Election Commission records.
According to the FEC records, Merchan donated $15.00 to Biden for President — the campaign of Trump’s opponent, on July 26, 2020, via ActBlue.
On July 27, 2020, he donated $10.00 to Progressive Turnout Project, an organization dedicated to turning out Democrat voters, and $10.00 to Stop Republicans, a part of Progressive Turnout Project “dedicated to resisting the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s radical right-wing legacy,” also via ActBlue.
According to Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics expert and law professor at New York University, such donations are forbidden.
“The contribution to Biden and possibly the one to ‘Stop Republicans’ would be forbidden unless there is some other explanation that would allow them,” Gillers told CNN on Thursday.
Gillers told Breitbart News in an email on Wednesday that violations of the N.Y. Code of Judicial Conduct would be investigated by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct and could potentially result in removal.
“Violations can lead to a warning, private discipline, public discipline and more serious sanctions like removal. Serious discipline (e.g. removal) is decided by the N.Y. Court of Appeals,” he said.