Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show All The Judges Who Could Hear Trump's New York Appeal

Fact Check

  • by: Dana Ford
Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show All The Judges Who Could Hear Trump's New York Appeal 5 Out Of 21

Does a photo of five Black female judges show all the judges who could hear former President Donald Trump's expected appeal of his conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records in New York? No, that's not true: The photo, distributed on social media, shows five of the 21 judges on the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department. Appeals are assigned to panels of judges, selected at random. It would be extremely unlikely that a future panel would have the exact same composition as the photo.

The claim was implied in a post (archived here) on X, formerly known as Twitter, on May 30, 2024. The post included the photo and read:

The appeals court. I'm thinking the appeal won't go well.

This is what the post looked like on X at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-06-21 at 11.24.16.png

(Source: X screenshot taken on Fri Jun 21 11:24:16 2024 UTC)

The photo, from left to right, shows Justice Bahaati Pitt-Burke, Justice Troy K. Webber, Presiding Justice Dianne T. Renwick, Justice Tanya R. Kennedy and Justice Marsha D. Michael. They are five of the 21 judges (archived here) on the intermediate appeals courts that could hear Trump's appeal. Justices vary by sex, race and ethnicity.

The photo was released on February 14, 2024, on the occasion of the "first all African-American bench" (archived here).

The appellate court sits in panels of five, selected at random, according to Roger Stavis, a defense and appellate lawyer who is co-head of Mintz & Gold's white-collar criminal defense and investigations practice in New York. Responding by email on June 21, 2024, to a query from Lead Stories, Stavis stressed that these panels are not selected before sentences for convictions are given and appeals are filed.

At the time of writing, June 21, 2024, Trump had not yet filed an appeal, though he has said he plans to so do. He is expected to be sentenced on July 11, 2024.

Daniel Warshawsky, a professor at New York Law School, added that panel assignments happen after briefs are filed but before oral arguments. In an email to Lead Stories, dated June 21, 2024, he wrote:

The suggestion that the five judges (all of whom are women of color) would be the judges assigned to Trump's appeal is blatant (and presumably deliberate) misinformation.

Trump was convicted in May 2024 on 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush money paid to cover up an alleged sex scandal that threatened his 2016 presidential campaign.

Lead Stories contacted a spokesman for the New York State Unified Court System to ask about the post's claim. We will update this story, as appropriate, if we receive a response.

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to Donald Trump can be found here.

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  Dana Ford

Dana Ford is an Atlanta-based reporter and editor. She previously worked as a senior editor at Atlanta Magazine Custom Media and as a writer/ editor for CNN Digital. Ford has more than a decade of news experience, including several years spent working in Latin America.

Read more about or contact Dana Ford

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