INDIANAPOLIS — The federal judge who has been criticized by presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for a ruling in a lawsuit involving Trump University is not a “Mexican” as Trump once suggested, but a native-born American whose immigrant father worked in a Northwest Indiana steel mill.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel was born in East Chicago, Indiana, and graduated from Indiana University before moving to California, where he was a federal prosecutor before his elevation to the bench. Here are some things about Curiel:


Curiel is the youngest of four children born in the U.S. to Mexican immigrants who relocated to East Chicago for work in the steel mills.

Curiel graduated in 1971 from a Catholic high school in Hammond and completed his Indiana University law degree in 1979. He practiced law for several years in Dyer, a city in the northwest corner of Indiana about 30 miles south of Chicago, before leaving the state.

“My parents were not wealthy, or well connected, or even educated,” Curiel said during a 2014 commencement address at his alma mater, Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. “My parents came to Indiana from Mexico 70 years ago with little more than a fourth-grade education and a belief that they could build a life for their family.”



As an assistant U.S. attorney in southern California, Curiel helped negotiate the extradition of Mexican drug traffickers to the U.S. and oversaw the prosecution that brought down the Arellano Felix drug cartel. At the time, Curiel received a death threat and was placed under protection of the U.S. marshals for about a year, his friend Gregory Vega, a former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of California, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Curiel was appointed to the federal bench in 2012 by President Barack Obama. In 2006, then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, appointed Curiel to the Superior Court of San Diego.


Curiel is a decorated alumnus of IU’s Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. In April, he was named an Academy of Law Alumni Fellow – the school’s highest award – recognizing graduates who have “distinguished themselves in their careers through personal achievements and dedication,” according to the school.

Curiel also helped start a scholarship program named for his deceased brother Antonio, who also was a Maurer graduate.

During the 2014 commencement address, Curiel urged Maurer graduates to have “civility and respect for those working with you and those opposing you.”

“Your reputation will be based as much on your legal ethics and civility as your work ethic and work product,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech.

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