New York Appeals Court judges in Trump case donated routinely to Democrats, records show

The New York State Court that will decide former President Donald Trump’s appeal includes justices who have a history of donating to Democratic campaigns and were elected to lower court judgeships as Democratic candidates before their appointments to the Appellate Court.State campaign records show that some of the justices, when they served as judges in the lower courts, donated to Democratic candidates and campaign committees, an apparent violation of the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics rules that prohibit partisan political activities of sitting judges.The list of candidates from the justices’ history of political donations includes a wide variety of New York elected officials, from state legislature candidates to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.50 REASONS WHY $70 MILLION PLUS IN SMALL DONATIONS POURED IN AFTER TRUMP VERDICTA review of federal and state election contribution records reveals that at least 14 of the 21 justices gave individual donations to Democratic campaigns and committees before their appointment to the Court. Fox News could find no evidence of any donations by the justices to the New York State Republican, Conservative or Liberal parties or their candidates. The justices serve on the New York State Appellate Court, First Judicial Department, and will eventually hear the anticipated appeal from the former president’s lawyers of his conviction last Thursday on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.All but one of the Court’s 21 justices were appointed by a New York State Democratic governor, either David Patterson, Andrew Cuomo or Kathy Hochul. The sole justice put on the bench by a Republican, New York Gov. George Pataki, is Associate Justice David Friedman, who is the longest serving justice since his appointment 25 years ago.Before his elevation to the Court, Friedman was the Democratic, Republican and Conservative party candidate for Supreme Court justice in his judgeship election in 2011. In an Appellate Court’s ruling during Trump’s real estate fraud trial last year, Friedman sided with the former president.One justice who did not side with Trump is the newest member of the appellate panel, Associate Justice Marsha D. Michael. She was appointed by Hochul last October.On April 19, just three days before opening arguments were scheduled to begin in Trump’s recently completed criminal trial in front of State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan, Michael rejected a last-minute bid by Trump’s lawyers to stop the proceedings. Her ruling gave the green light for the trial that eventually convicted Trump to proceed.In 2014, Michael ran in the Democratic primary for the New York State Assembly in the 79th District in the Bronx. She was endorsed in that race by then-New York City Public Advocate Leticia James, who went on to be elected New York State Attorney General four years later. Last year, James prosecuted Trump and won her successful $454 million real estate fraud case. Back when Michael was stumping for the state legislature, James appeared with her on the campaign trail.On July 11th, 2014, Michael answered questions about her candidacy from the non-partisan good government group, The Citizens Union.She was asked if she supported a “merit-based appointment system through creation of a commission for the selection of judges in all of New York’s trial courts.”The justice did not support the idea that all judges should be chosen on the merits, writing, “I don’t think all courts should solely be merit-based.”Michael lost the Democratic primary race, despite having the backing of the Bronx Democratic organization. She remained on the ballot in the general election as the candidate of the Working Families Party. The WFP is known today for supporting members of the so-called “Squad” in Congress, backing Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.Four years after her defeat, Michael ran again as a Democratic candidate for a New York State Supreme Court seat and won in 2018. It was from that position that she was elevated to the Appellate Division eight months ago. Appellate Court Justice Ellen Gesmer was first elected as a judge in the New York State Civil Court in 2004. In 2011, she won a Supreme Court judgeship as both the Democratic and Republican candidate. Before Gesmer was elected to the bench, records show that she had donated thousands of dollars to Democrats.Federal Election Commission records show that Gesmer had contributed to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and various Democratic Party committees when she was a lawyer in private practice.In 1998, she donated a total of $2,000 to Schumer’s election bid, a total of $1,725 to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 New York State Senate race, $1,700 to the New York State Democratic Committee and the Democratic National Committee, and, in 2003, chipped in $250 to support Dean’s presidential campaign.Appellate Justice Jeffrey K. Oing gave $900 to the New York State Democratic Committee in three payments in 2003, according to FEC records, one year before he was elected to the New York City Civil Court.The records from the New York State Board of Elections, which detail contributions to state-level races, reveal the extent of political donations made by judges during their election campaigns.The range of donations includes contributions to Democratic New York State Senate and Assembly candidates, party committees and local Democratic clubhouses, even as some of the judges served on the bench.The state’s judicial ethics rules state: “Neither a sitting judge nor a candidate for public election to judicial office shall directly or indirectly engage in any political activity” that does not directly involve their own candidacy. The rules prohibit judges from “engaging in any partisan political activity” or “participating in any political campaign.” REP JORDAN URGES CONGRESS TO ‘DEFUND LAWFARE ACTIVITIES’ OF TRUMP PROSECUTORSTrump has accused Merchan of being “conflicted” because he donated $15 to President Joe Biden’s 2016 election campaign – and $10 to a group called “Stop Republicans.” In addition, Merchan’s daughter works for a political campaign consulting firm whose clients include many prominent Democrats, including Biden’s campaign.The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct found that Merchan had no conflict of interest, but did reportedly give him a warning over his contributions.In the murky political landscape that can be New York politics, several of the appellate judges were even endorsed by competing political parties in their contests for a seat on the lower courts.Appellate Justice Troy Webber first won her race for Supreme Court Justice in 2002 as both the Democratic and Republican candidate. In 2016, she was on the ballot as the Democratic candidate, according to New York State Election records. Justice Barbara Kapnick won in 2001 as the Democratic, Republican and Liberal party candidate. By 2015, she carried the banner for just the Democrats. Despite some of the justices’ past Democratic support, Trump has scored some wins before the Appellate Court in his recent appeals.Last year, a panel of five of the justices reduced the amount of the bond that was imposed by Judge Arthur Engoron in Trump’s real estate civil fraud trial, from $454 million to $175 million. Friedman temporarily blocked Engoron’s gag order on Trump, and Justice Anil Singh granted a stay that temporarily lifted Engoron’s ruling that barred Trump, and his sons Donald, Jr. and Eric, from doing business in New York. Court observers note that there is no evidence that the personal political views of the jurists have influenced their rulings, but critics contend that the appearance of a possible conflict of interest is troubling.Fox News asked the Appellate Court for comment but no one has responded.Courtney De George contributed to this report.
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