Arthur Engoron: The judge who decides on Donald Trump’s companies

Donald Trump’s business fate rests in the hands of a Democratic New York judge. Arthur Engoron has proven several times that he won’t let the ex-president fool him – just like his sense of humor.

A shaky tracking shot in home video quality, a close-up of a mock-surprised protagonist grinning from ear to ear, brightly colored Comic Sans-style writing, plus a catchy tune from the retort – the 90s sitcom intro is ready. Or just a snapshot from a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit in which the former President of the United States is fighting for his business empire and somehow also for his dignity:

Donald Trump is probably the most photographed person on the planet (along with Taylor Swift). This means that everything and everyone in its wake has to be very careful. And so the unintentionally funny recording of New York judge Arthur Engoron has been circulating on social media since the beginning of October, optionally accompanied by theme songs from cult series such as “Full House”, “Friends” or “The Office”. However, anyone who fears that the likeable, somewhat distracted-looking older gentleman on the judge’s bench might be “too nice” to take on the thrashing rhetorician Donald Trump is wrong. And hugely so.

He recently proved that Engoron can do something completely different during Trump’s first trial testimony on Monday. When the ex-president unleashed his well-known litany of political witch hunts for the umpteenth time without being asked (the whole process was “very, very unfair”), Engoron was overwhelmed. “This is not a campaign appearance!” he scolded and demanded that Trump’s lawyer bring his client under control, otherwise “I will do that.”

Who is the man who shuts up the most influential Republican?

There is a lot at stake for Donald Trump in the trial in New York

For Donald Trump, the New York trial is about nothing less than his business legacy.

Attorney General Letitia James is accusing the businessman, his two eldest sons and Trump Organization executives of intentionally misrepresenting the values ​​of several New York properties to save millions in taxes and insurance premiums. Not only is she demanding $250 million and a five-year ban on purchasing commercial real estate. If James has his way, neither Trump nor his two sons will ever again be allowed to run a company based in New York state. A “death sentence for a company,” as the patriarch himself says.

And things aren’t looking good for the new presidential candidate. Judge Engoron had already found Trump guilty in a landmark decision days before the trial began on October 2nd. The 77-year-old cheated and lives in a “fantasy world”.

Judge Arthur Engoron: from taxi driver to Trump muzzle

It’s self-explanatory, one would think, that insulting a man in whose hands one’s legacy lies is a modest idea. “I have a deranged, Trump-hating judge who has rolled this FALSE CASE through a NYS courthouse at an unprecedented rate,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform before the trial began.

It is at least reasonable to assume that Engoron, as a registered member of the Democratic Party, is not necessarily the Republican defendant’s biggest fan. Nevertheless, Trump is at his mercy – there will be no jury. The Trump legal armada had not requested a jury trial. In a sense, Engoron is judge and executioner at the same time. An enormous pressure.

At 74 years old, he at least has plenty of experience handling the judge’s gavel. During his time as a student at the prestigious Columbia University, Engoron drove taxis, gave piano lessons (he played keyboard in a “moderately successful” band) and, according to his own statements, took part in “large, sometimes boisterous protests against the Vietnam War.” He later served for twelve years in the New York Civil Court, which deals primarily with petty crimes. In a career that spanned more than two decades, hundreds of cases passed through his desk – he is even said to have settled a custody dispute over a dog named “Stevie”.

In 2015, he was elected unopposed to the 1st Judicial District of the New York Supreme Court. His term ends in 2029, even though judges in his salary bracket are supposed to retire at age 76. The man who involuntarily helped Engoron achieve late prominence wants to become president at 78.

A pinch of humor

In the three years that the public prosecutor’s office has been investigating Trump and his inner circle, Engoron has been involved in taking evidence and has already ruled against the ex-president several times. For example, because he repeatedly shot at court employees, Engoron forbade the defendant to appear in public – except himself, of course. Although Engoron can now drive to work under strict security precautions, he is not very impressed by Trump’s anger. He even fined Trump $110,000 for contempt of court last year because he ignored a subpoena. Trump later tried to get rid of Engoron – without success.

No matter how harsh the judge can be, his sitcom smile is apparently not a facade. According to US media reports, he is seen as a humorous, somewhat quirky guy who doesn’t even ask the audience to stand up as usual when he enters the courtroom and allows himself the odd joke even in extremely serious hearings. He is said to have woven film quotes and song lyrics into many a sentencing speech. Maybe at the end of the Trump trial he might like to use “The Clash”, who sang in 1979: “I fought the law and the law won” – “I fought against the law and the law won”.

Sources: “New York Times”; AP; Reuters.