(CNN) — When Donald Trump enters a New York court on Tuesdaywill face an experienced judge who is not alien to the orbit of the former president.
Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan sentenced Allen Weisselberg, a close Trump confidant, to prison, presided over the Trump Organization tax fraud trial and oversaw former adviser Steve Bannon’s criminal fraud case .
But Trump’s historic arraignment on Tuesday may be Merchan’s most high-profile case to date, even after a long career on state trial court.
Merchan has been described by observers as a “tough” judge, but fair no matter who is in front of him.
This is what you should know.
“A man of word”
Trump’s arraignment is likely to be a spectacle with a law enforcement demonstration, with the former president fanning flames on social media with his views on Merchan and his impeachment.
But in court, Merchan doesn’t tolerate interruptions or delays, lawyers who appeared before him told CNN, and he has been known to maintain control of his courtroom even when his cases attract a lot of attention.
“Judge Merchan was efficient, matter-of-fact and listened carefully to what I had to say,” Nicholas Gravante, the attorney who represented Weisselberg in his guilty plea, said by email.
“He was clear in pointing out his judicial leanings, which helped me tremendously in providing Mr. Weisselberg with informed legal advice. Judge Merchan was always well prepared, he was accessible and, most importantly in the Weisselberg case, he was a man of his word. He treated me and my colleagues with the utmost respect, both in public court and behind closed doors.”
Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a private practice attorney who previously worked as a senior assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, overseeing cases that Merchan presided over, extended that sentiment.
“[Merchan] he does not allow prosecutors or defendants to create any trouble in his courtroom. He does not allow a media circus or any other kind of circus to happen. I don’t think Donald Trump attacking and threatening him will bode well for him in the courtroom,” Agnifilo said.
“The judge is the type of judge who will ignore it and not hold it against Donald Trump. He’s not vengeful in any way like that.”
“Hard” but “compassionate”
Merchan showed some of his tough side when Weisselberg he was sentenced, telling Trump’s former associate that if he had not been promised a five-month sentence, he would have handed down a “much longer” sentence after hearing evidence at trial.
When he presided over the criminal fraud case of BannonMerchan chided the former Trump aide’s new legal team for delaying the case when they asked for more time to review new evidence.
In addition to the Trump cases, Merchan also presided over other high-profile cases, including the “soccer mom lady” trial, in which he set bail at $2 million for the mother of Anna Gristina, who was charged with running a $2,000 an hour business for an escort service for rich people, reported Bloomberg News.
Merchan also handed down a 25-year to life sentence to a Senegalese man who raped and murdered his girlfriend.
Trump’s attorney, Timothy Parlatore, said during an interview on CNN Friday that Merchan “didn’t go easy” on him when he tried a case before him, but also noted that the judge will probably be fair.
“I have tried a case in front of him before. He could be tough. I don’t think it will necessarily be something that is going to change his ability to assess the facts and the law in this case,” Parlatore said.
Merchan, however, is also credited by his peers for helping to create the Manhattan Mental Health Court, which he often presides over and where he has earned a reputation for “compassionate” rulings that give defendants a second chance.
“I saw a colleague of mine try a shooting case where someone was shot, so you can take on those very serious violent crimes and then switch,” said Brendan Tracy, a criminal defense attorney who previously served as an assistant district attorney. district in Manhattan.
“Maybe someone who was a serial burglar and then was charged with grand theft and is in mental health treatment court because he had mental health issues, he was able to handle the wide range of cases and do it fairly,” Tracy added. .
However, Earl Ward, a trial lawyer and president of the nonprofit public defense organization The Bronx Defenders, said that having seen Merchan preside over cases in Mental Health Court, the judge often sided with the prosecutors.
“He’s fair and his rulings are consistent with the law, but if it’s a tough call, his reputation is that he lands on the prosecution’s side,” Ward said.
Merchan started his career in 1994 when he started as an assistant district attorney in the trial division of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Several years later, he moved to the state attorney general’s office, where he worked on cases on Long Island.
In 2006, the mayor of new yorkMichael Bloomberg, then a Republican, appointed Merchan to the Family Court in the Bronx, and the Democratic governor david paterson appointed him to the New York State Court of Claims in 2009, the same year he began serving as an Acting Justice of the New York Supreme Court.
Born in Bogota, ColombiaMerchan immigrated to the United States at the age of 6 and grew up in the New York neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, according to a profile of the judge of the New York Times. He was the first in his family to go to college.
Merchan initially studied business at Baruch College in New York before dropping out to work and returning several years later to finish his education so he could earn his law degree, the Times reported.
He eventually received his law degree from Hofstra University.
CNN’s Kara Scannell and Lauren del Valle contributed to this report.
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