Since the fall of 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel has quietly presided over hundreds of cases from a spacious wood-paneled courtroom on the second floor of the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego, drawing little attention outside the tightknit federal legal community.
It’s a building that Curiel is familiar with, from his 13-year-long tenure as a narcotics prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego, eventually rising to chief of the unit.
There, from 1989 to 2002, he built a reputation as a tough, effective lawyer in charge of a special task force charged with dismantling the Arellano-Felix drug cartel — an assignment that earned him round-the-clock protection from the U.S. marshals service for a year while under a death threat from the cartel.
Now, Curiel finds himself facing a different kind of threat.
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