As former President Donald Trump has a new case against him, all eyes are on the presiding judge—a Black woman with a strong courtroom reputation.
On Tuesday (August 1st), Trump received a federal indictment on four felony counts over allegations of his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The district judge who will be presiding over the case is Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who has earned a reputation for being strong and fair in the courtroom. She was randomly selected by the court for this latest indictment brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith and the Department of Justice.
Chutkan, 61, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and came to the U.S. to attend college at George Washington University and earned a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania. She was appointed to be a federal trial judge by former President Barack Obama in 2014 after a decade of work as a public defender in Washington D.C. In a recent interview, she spoke about her career and background and the challenges she faced: “For a lot of people, I seem to check a lot of boxes: immigrant, woman, Black, Asian. Your qualifications are always going to be subject to criticism and you have to develop a thick skin.”
Judge Chutkan has earned high praise for her rulings in the cases of Jan. 6th defendants she has overseen, with a report from the Associated Press saying that she has “handed out tougher sentences than the department was seeking in seven cases, matched its requests in four others and sent all 11 riot defendants who have come before her behind bars.” Judge Chutkan has demurred in expressing her own opinions but has been vocal about the dangers that the January 6th insurrection presented and the threat of future violence. “The people who planned this and funded it and encouraged it haven’t been charged, but that’s not a reason for you to get a lower sentence,” she said to a Jan. 6th defendant in one case.
She has also been instrumental in the government’s investigation into Trump. In 2021, she ruled that the House Select Committee investigating January 6th could access the mass of documents from the Trump White House records surrounding that day. “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” she wrote in her ruling. Trump is scheduled to appear before Judge Chutkan in court on Thursday (August 3rd).