Who is Arthur Engoron, the New York judge taking on Donald Trump?

engoron trump
Arthur Engoron has been veriously labelled by Donald Trump as 'unhinged', 'deranged' and a 'political hack' - AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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The man who dealt Donald Trump a $355million fine and effectively banned him from running his own company is no stranger to court battles with the former president.

Since Arthur Engoron began presiding over cases linked to Mr Trump in 2020, the cab-driver-turned-judge has forced him to sit for a deposition, handed him a gag order, held him in contempt of court and fined him more than $100,000.

Their running battle gave rise to a bitter enmity between the two men, which dramatically bubbled over during Mr Trump’s fiery testimony, during which Mr Engoron admonished him for trying to turn the courtroom into a campaign stop.

Mr Trump has for months been calling Mr Engoron “unhinged” and “deranged”, and a “political hack”.

And on Friday Mr Engoron finally got to fight back - using his official ruling to mock the former president using literature references.

“The English poet Alexander Pope first declared ‘To err is human, to forgive is divine’”, he wrote.

“Defendants apparently are of a different mind”, he added as he attacked Mr Trump and his co-defendants for having a “pathological” lack of contrition and remorse.

“Donald Trump is not Bernard Madoff”, he said, referring to the criminal American financier.

“Yet, defendants are incapable of admitting the error of their ways. Instead, they adopt a “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” posture that the evidence belies.”

Friday’s ruling punished Mr Trump for committing years of fraud by exaggerating his wealth and the value of assets on financial statements he used to get loans and make deals. The former president was ordered to pay $354,868,768.

Mr Engoron reversed a decision to dissolve some of the former president’s companies - a decision that could have caused him to lose control of his best-known New York properties, such as Trump Tower.

But in his punchy ruling he banned the Republican frontrunner and his sons from serving as a director or officer of any New York company for three and two years respectively - a decision which leaves the future of the Trump Organisation hanging in the balance.

Mr Trump’s case may be the last major one Mr Engoron oversees before he retires - AP Photo/Mike Mulholland, File

Mr Engoron spent his early years in Queens, about 3.8 miles east of the former president’s childhood home.

He first made headlines in 1964, when he and three friends won the grand prize in a contest where the New York Mets, a baseball team, had invited fans to parade across the field carrying banners. Mr Engoron, then 15, scrawled an adaptation of a Republican quote about Communism: “Extremism In Defence Of The Mets Is No Vice.”

Later, while attending Columbia University, the future judge drove a taxi - a fact he revealed while ruling against then-mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to expand yellow cab service outside New York City.

In another ruling, he said he had once taken part in “huge, sometimes boisterous, Vietnam War protests.” He has described himself as a free-speech absolutist and a member of the American Civil Liberties Union since 1994.

Alongside his career as a legal clerk and judge, he has taught piano and drums and played keyboard in what he described as a “moderately successful” bar band.

Mr Engoron became a New York judge in 2003, handling small claims and other small lawsuits, before being appointed as an acting justice of the state’s trial court – a position he made permanent in 2015.

His term runs until 2029, although Mr Trump’s may be the last major case he oversees before taking retirement under New York law at 76.

After Mr Engoron was given control of the fraud lawsuit last October, Mr Trump’s lawyers have accused Ms James’ office of trying to “judge shop” for a more critical judgment.

In subpoena disputes related to the case, Mr Engoron forced Mr Trump to pay $110,000 in fines and sit for a deposition.

During the trial he imposed Mr Trump with a gag order after the former president attacked a law clerk in a post on his Truth Social account.

Mr Trump was fined twice, totaling $15,000, for violating it.

Mr Trump and Mr Engoron have a shared love of the city of New York, where both have built their decades-long careers.

The former president generally splits his time between Florida and New York and avoids visiting “the swamp” of Washington where possible.

But the fraud trial in New York may force him to give up Trump Tower – his glass-and-steel flagship on New York’s Fifth Avenue nearly four miles from Mr Engoron’s Lower Manhattan courthouse.

Mr Engoron frequently peppers his rulings with song lyrics, movie quotes and the occasional New York City history lesson.

He has quoted Bob Dylan and Shakespeare and movies like City Slickers and signs off his rulings with his initials, AE, drawn together in a circle.

In 2017, Mr Engoron turned to the Frank Sinatra hit Love and Marriage which, the song notes “go together like a horse and carriage” for a ruling restricting protests on horse-drawn carriages in Central Park.

In another ruling, he said New York’s review process for new housing “seems like Rube Goldberg, Franz Kafka, and the Marquis de Sade cooked it up over martinis.”

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