Former President Donald Trump is facing four felony charges for his role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, which aimed to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The case has been assigned to District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who has a reputation for being tough on the rioters and outspoken against Trump’s attempts to subvert democracy. Here are some facts about the judge who will preside over one of the most consequential trials in American history.
Background and career
- Chutkan was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 5, 1962. She moved to the United States for college and graduated from George Washington University in 1983. She then attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was an associate editor of the law review. She graduated in 1987 with a Juris Doctor degree1
- Chutkan worked as a private lawyer at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) from 1987 to 1990 and at Donovan, Leisure, Rogovin, Huge & Schiller from 1990 to 1991. She then joined the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she served as a trial attorney and supervisor for 11 years. In 2002, she became a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, where she focused on complex civil litigation and antitrust class action cases1
- Chutkan was nominated by former President Barack Obama as a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in December 2013. She was confirmed by the Senate in June 2014 by a 95–0 vote. She is the first Jamaican-born judge to serve on the federal bench12
- Chutkan is married to Peter A. Krauthamer, who was a judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia from 2012 to 2023. They have two sons2
Notable cases and rulings
- Chutkan has overseen numerous cases involving January 6 rioters and has handed down some of the harshest sentences that have often gone further than what prosecutors have recommended. For example, she sentenced Robert Palmer to five years in prison for spraying police officers with a fire extinguisher, even though prosecutors had asked for only three years and three months. She also sentenced Carl Mazzocco to four years and nine months in prison for assaulting police officers with a flagpole, while prosecutors had sought only three years and one month32
- Chutkan has also expressed strong views against Trump’s efforts to overturn the election and disrupt the transfer of power. In October 2021, she told Mazzocco’s lawyers that he “went to the Capitol in support of one man, not in support of our country.” In December that year, she told Palmer that “the people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged.” 2
- In November 2021, Chutkan ordered Trump to release records from his presidency to the House January 6 Select Committee, ruling against his claim of executive privilege. She wrote that “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.” She also said that Trump’s argument that his records were protected by executive privilege was “unprecedented” and “extraordinary.” 42
- In February 2017, Chutkan ruled against Public.Resource.Org, a nonprofit organization that scanned and made available building codes and fire codes that were considered copyrighted by various entities. She ordered all of the standards to be deleted from the Internet. However, her decision was reversed and remanded by the D.C. Circuit in 2018, which held that she had improperly applied the fair use doctrines.
What to expect from the trial
- The trial of Trump is expected to be one of the most high-profile and controversial cases in American history. It will involve complex legal issues such as executive privilege, presidential immunity, conspiracy law, and obstruction of justice. It will also attract intense media attention and public scrutiny.
- Chutkan is likely to be fair but firm with both sides of the case. She has shown that she is not afraid to challenge Trump’s claims or impose harsh sentences on his supporters. She has also shown that she respects the rule of law and the separation of powers.
- Chutkan may face threats or attacks from Trump’s allies or critics. She has already received some negative coverage from conservative media outlets that have highlighted her donations to Obama’s campaign and her appointment by him. She may also face security risks or harassment from extremists who oppose her rulings52