Judge contradicts accusation of anti-Trump bias: criminal trial won’t conflict with Passover

Right-wing pundits accused the judge of trying to prevent Orthodox Jews from serving on the jury in his upcoming criminal trial

Former president Donald Trump with Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad in Poway, Calif. Credit: Trump White House Archived

Apr 15, 2024 3:05 PM


The judge overseeing a criminal trial of former president Donald Trump contradicted a claim that he scheduled proceedings on Jewish holidays in order to prevent Orthodox Jews from serving on the jury, NBC News reported.

Right-wing pundits accused Judge Juan Merchan of scheduling proceedings on Fridays and Passover in order to prevent Orthodox Jews from serving on the jury, Newsweek reported.

Merchan said on Monday that there would be no trial on any day that conflicts with the religious observance of any juror — including Passover.

Jury selection began on Monday and is expected to take one to two weeks. The trial itself is expected to last six to eight weeks and will take place every weekday except Wednesday.

“Leftwing anti-Trump Democrat judge in phony case against Trump starting tomorrow has purposely scheduled trial days to include Fridays to prevent more conservative pro-Trump Orthodox Jews from serving on the jury,” Fox News pundit Mark Levin wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Dan Schneider, vice president for the Free Speech Alliance at the Media Research Center, a conservative organization, posted a similar comment, writing in part that the judge sought to “exclude all Orthodox Jews from the jury pool.”

The court closes at 5 p.m. Between now and June, Shabbat will begin after 7 p.m., though, for many observant Jews, preparations begin much earlier.

Trump made history on Monday as the first former president to face a criminal trial. He pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records during his 2016 campaign, punishable by up to four years in prison. 

Prosecutor Chris Conroy said that Trump attempted to “undermine the election” by making hush money payments to three people: porn star Stormy Daniels, Playboy model Karen McDougal, and Dino Sajudin, a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed Trump had a child out of wedlock.

Prospective jurors will have to answer 42 questions, including what news sources they follow and whether they’ve ever attended any Trump rallies or anti-Trump protests. The prosecutor and Trump’s attorneys can each ask additional questions. The trial will have an anonymous jury.

Many Haredi New Yorkers support Trump. In both the 2016 and 2020 general elections, the former president won a vast majority of votes in the largely Haredi neighborhood Borough Park. According to an online survey conducted during the summer, ninety percent of Haredi respondents said they planned to vote Republican in the 2024 presidential election, compared to only 39% of Modern Orthodox respondents.