The ‘no-nonsense’ judge set to face Donald Trump in the courtroom
The judge overseeing the first-ever criminal case against a former US president is described by colleagues as stern, smart and even-tempered.
Justice Juan Merchan, 60, also began his career in the very office bringing the charges against Donald Trump: the Manhattan District Attorney.
Born in Colombia, Justice Merchan has been an acting New York State Supreme Court justice since 2009 and is no stranger to complex or high-profile cases.
He is also well-versed in Mr Trump’s legal woes and those of his former campaign and White House adviser Steve Bannon.
It was Justice Merchan who presided over a prosecution last year of Mr Trump’s company on tax fraud charges, which led to a conviction and $1.61 million penalty.
Justice Merchan also sentenced one of the Trump Organization’s longtime executives, Allen Weisselberg, to five months in jail after he pleaded guilty in the case.
Mr Trump himself was not charged in that case, but the ex-president has used it to claim the judge “hates” him.
The former president claimed on his Truth Social platform that the judge had “treated my companies viciously” in the previous case.
Lawyers who have appeared before the Supreme Court justice describe him as stern but compassionate.
“He’s a serious jurist, smart and even tempered,” Ron Kuby, a longtime defence lawyer in Manhattan, told NBC News.
“He’s not one of those judges who yells at lawyers, and is characterised as a no-nonsense judge. But he’s always in control of the courtroom.”
Justice Merchan came to the US from Colombia aged six, growing up in modest circumstances in New York City’s borough of Queens.
The first in his family to go to college, he reportedly began working at the age of nine, carrying shopping bags for tips, and carried on working side jobs alongside his studies to fund his education.
His first job after law school came in 1994, working as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan.
He then did stints in New York’s Court of Claims, which hears cases against the state and its agencies, and the family court in the Bronx.
Justice Merchan will preside over Mr Trump’s arraignment on Tuesday and likely oversee any subsequent trial.
He is also presiding over a criminal case involving Mr Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud related to a non-profit that raised funds for building a US-Mexico border wall.