Who is Judge Juan Merchan? What to know as Donald Trump's hush money trial continues

Former President Donald Trump claimed Judge Juan Merchan is biased against him after leaving the courthouse on the second day of his hush money trial, continuing a streak of complaints lobbed against the judge.

Despite an ethics committee finding no grounds to question Merchan's objectivity, Trump said "he's doing as much as he can for the Democrats."

Merchan is presiding over the first criminal trial of a former president in U.S. history. Trump has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the hush money payments issued to Stormy Daniels.

Here is what to know about Merchan, who has also become a target among Trump supporters, as the trial continues:

Donald Trump trial live updates:Latest from gag order arguments, David Pecker testimony

Who is Judge Juan Merchan?

Merchan has been a felony judge for 15 years. 

Before that, Merchan served as an assistant attorney general for Nassau County, on suburban Long Island, and in the Manhattan district attorney’s office for five years.

He received his bachelor’s degree is from Baruch College and his law degree is from Hofstra University.

Who appointed Judge Juan Merchan?

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Merchan as a Family Court judge in 2006 and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks named him to the Supreme Court handling felonies in 2009.

Who is Judge Juan Merchan's daughter?

Juan Merchan's daughter Loren Merchan is the head of a digital marketing agency Authentic Campaigns, which works with Democratic candidates and non-profits.

Trump has repeatedly attacked Loren in the runup to the trial. He called her in one social media post "a Rabid Trump Hater, who has admitted to having conversations with her father about me."

The judge acknowledged this, but decided it did not provide a justifiable reason for Merchan's recusal, which Trump had requested. The New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics found the case didn't involve Loren Merchan or her business either "directly or indirectly."

Merchan already fined Trump Organization $1.6 million

Merchan presided over a 2022 tax-fraud trial of two parts of the Trump Organization, in which the company’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was convicted for not reporting $1.7 million in benefits.

Merchan sentenced Weisselberg to five months in jail and imposed a combined $1.6 million fine on the two Trump companies, which are currently appealing.

The judge said that after listening to Weisselberg's testimony, he regretted agreeing to a five-month jail term, and if not for that, he "would be imposing a sentence much greater than that."

Weisselberg was sentenced by another judge recently to another five months in jail after pleading guilty last month to perjury for lying during Trump’s civil fraud trial. New York Attorney General Letitia James won a $454 million judgment against Trump for inflating his assets in loan applications.

Merchan has issued Trump gag orders, refused requests

After Trump was indicted in for the hush money case in March 2023 and Merchan was assigned the case, the former president blasted the judge on social media.

"The Judge 'assigned' to my Witch Hunt Case, a 'Case' that has NEVER BEEN CHARGED BEFORE, HATES ME," Trump wrote on Truth Social.

So far in the legal proceedings, Merchan has imposed a gag order against Trump commenting on witnesses, court staff or prosecutors, expanded it to prohibit comments on family members of himself and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and refused Trump's request to delay the trial.

Contributing: Aysha Bagchi, USA TODAY