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Who is Juan Merchan, the judge who will preside over the Trump criminal case?

The former president is no fan of the New York Supreme Court judge, but Merchan has experience with the Trump Organization and other high-profile cases

The New York Criminal Court building on Friday. (Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
3 min

Former president Donald Trump is quite familiar with New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, the judge who oversaw the grand jury that indicted Trump this week and who will preside over the criminal proceedings that follow.

Merchan, 60, who has sat on the New York bench since 2009, also presided over the jury trial last year of Trump’s namesake real estate company, which resulted in a conviction in December, and the prosecution of the company’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.

Here’s what you need to know about Merchan:

Background and experience

The judge, who was born in Colombia and grew up in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, has held various posts as a lawyer and jurist in New York government since the 1990s, including working as a family court judge in the Bronx. Merchan attended Baruch College and the Hofstra University School of Law, according to his court biography. He was also an assistant district attorney in the New York County district attorney’s office — the agency now led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Merchan now works at the New York Supreme Court, a felony-level trial court with branches in each New York City borough and each county around the state.

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On March 30, Donald Trump became the first former president in U.S. history to be charged with a crime. The unprecedented case will test the judicial system and have far-reaching implications across U.S. politics.
What crimes has Trump been charged with?
Donald Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. The case involves Trump’s alleged involvement with hush-money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Next steps for the case
A judge set a trial date of March 2024. There will be pretrial hearings, which could include motions from the defense to dismiss charges or exclude evidence as well as requests to the judge on scheduling and witnesses. Here are the steps in the indictment process.
He can still run for president in 2024
Being indicted or convicted of a crime doesn’t disqualify you from running for or being elected president. While it has never been attempted by a candidate from a major party before, Trump is allowed to run for president while he has been charged — or even convicted — of a crime.
Who are the key players?
New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who has handled other high-profile cases, is presiding over the case; Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat who has been in his role since November 2021, is leading the prosecution. The case involves Stormy Daniels, Allen Weisselberg, Michael Cohen and others.
Other investigations of Trump
There are multiple ongoing investigations involving Trump, including an investigation of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago; a criminal probe by the Justice Department of the Jan. 6 insurrection; an investigation into the Georgia election results; and the lawsuit over Trump’s business practices in New York.


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As part of his portfolio, Merchan oversees a specialized court that gives treatment options and merit-based plea agreements to eligible defendants who are in the throes of mental illness when they commit crimes. The program prioritizes treatment and recovery. Graduates can see their charges reduced or dismissed.

On Tuesday, Trump appeared before Merchan for a criminal arraignment hearing. Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Bragg has been investigating a payment made before the 2016 presidential election to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress, to keep her from publicly discussing a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump years earlier.

Here are the 34 charges against Trump and what they mean

The case centers on how Trump repaid the lawyer and fixer who gave the money to Daniels, and whether he falsified business records to benefit his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has denied wrongdoing.

High-profile cases

Merchan will have the unprecedented job of figuring out how to hold a criminal proceeding involving a famously combative former president, who is still protected by the U.S. Secret Service, and whose court appearances will almost certainly create a media circus.

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Donald Trump is facing historic legal scrutiny for a former president, under investigation by the Justice Department, district attorneys in Manhattan and Fulton County, Ga., and a state attorney general. He denies wrongdoing. Here is a list of the key investigations and where they stand.
Justice Department criminal probe of Jan. 6
The Justice Department is investigating the Jan. 6 riot and whether Trump or his aides may have conspired to obstruct the formal certification in Congress of the election result or committed fraud to block the peaceful transfer of power. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed veteran prosecutor Jack Smith to oversee both this and the Mar-a-Lago investigation.
Mar-a-Lago documents investigation
FBI agents found more than 100 classified documents during a search of Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 8 as part of a criminal probe into possible mishandling of classified information. A grand jury is hearing witness testimony as prosecutors weigh their next steps.
Georgia election results investigation
Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) is investigating whether Trump and his allies illegally meddled in the 2020 election in Georgia. A Georgia judge on Feb. 15 released parts of a report produced by a special-purpose grand jury, and authorities who are privy to the report will decide whether to ask a new grand jury to vote on criminal charges.
Manhattan district attorney’s investigation
District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) convened a grand jury to evaluate business-related matters involving Trump, including his alleged role in hush-money payments to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. On March 30, the grand jury voted to indict Trump, making him the first ex-president to be charged with a crime. Here’s what happens next.
Lawsuit over Trump business practices in New York
Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a lawsuit Sept. 21 against Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization, accusing them of flagrantly manipulating the valuations of their properties to get better terms on loans and insurance policies, and to get tax breaks. The litigation is pending.


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But it’s not the first time he’s had to deal with high-profile cases. In 2015, he handled the trial of four BASE jumpers who sneaked into the One World Trade Center building when it was under construction and launched themselves from the top. After landing, they posted dramatic footage of their descents — which quickly went viral and drew massive interest in what had been a quirky, little-known criminal case.

And during his first years serving on the New York County criminal court, Merchan oversaw the case of a woman accused of operating a pricey escort service whose tabloid moniker, “the soccer mom madam,” fueled headlines for months.

In 2018, President Donald Trump denied knowing about a hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. Later that year, he changed his tune. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Criticism from Trump

The former president — the first ever to be charged with a crime — has not been shy about going after his appointed judge. On Friday, Trump lashed out at Merchan on social media, declaring that the judge “HATES ME.”

Merchan “is the same person who ‘railroaded’ my 75 year old former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, to take a ‘plea’ deal,” Trump wrote.

The former president added: “He strong armed Allen, which a judge is not allowed to do, & treated my companies, which didn’t ‘plead,’ VICIOUSLY. APPEALING.”

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts including tax fraud, conspiracy and grand larceny and is serving a five-month jail sentence. Trump was not personally implicated in that case.

More on the Trump NY indictment

The latest: Former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York is scheduled for March 2024. Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts stemming from 2016 hush-money payments, the first criminal charges for any former U.S. president.

What is the case about? The investigation involves a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress, during the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s one of many ongoing investigations involving Trump. Here are some of the key people in the case and how the indictment process will work.

What are the charges? Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Falsifying business records is a felony in New York when there is an “intent to defraud” that includes an intent to “commit another crime or to aid or conceal” another crime. Here’s the full text of the Trump indictment.

Can Trump still run for president? While it has never been attempted by a candidate from a major party before, Trump is allowed to run for president while under indictment — or even if he is convicted of a crime. Here’s how Trump’s indictment could impact the 2024 election.