The Trump legal team lost a major motion in San Diego that could have political consequences when U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel refused to move the planned November 28th trial date in the Trump University fraud case. Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli wanted the trial moved to January 2. Petrocelli argued that it was his not Trump’s schedule in November that needed to be accommodated due to another trial.
You will recall Judge Curiel from the infamous attack by Trump on his Mexican heritage, even though he was born in the United States.
The denial of the five-week delay is by no means unexpected. With a trial this close, many judges look with disfavor on motions for new trial dates, particularly when opposed by the other party. The judge had already accommodated the presidential election in delaying a trial.The class action has now been six years in the making.
The fraud case is actually quite interesting. The claims are based primarily on alleged assurances or indications that Trump University was an accredited university, that Trump handpicked top experts in the field to teach them, and they would receive a year of mentoring. However, the case does raise the long-standing warning of caveat emptor (“buyer beware”) for consumer to separate puffery from promises in such arrangements. Many were sold after watching what was clearly an infomercial. The Trump team insists that these students were unsuccessful due to their own failings and many actually gave the course high marks for satisfaction. I have long been a critic of such commercial “educational” products, even with accredited online universities. Students often pay huge amounts and receive sub par courses or educations. While the base course only lasted 3 days and cost $1,500, the gold or elite mentored courses could go as high as a shocking $35,000.
Trump University was incorporated in 2004 and Donald Trump owned 93% of the company. Notably, however,
in June 2010, “Trump University” dropped the educational reference and changed its name to “The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.” It then shutdown in 2010.
I agree with Judge Curiel that there is enough to go to trial despite the motions by the Trump team to the contrary. A hearing is now planned for jury instruction just two days after the presidential election. That raises some interesting issues. Trump would be called to testify, but he could be elected president on November 8th and inaugurated on January 20th. The trial would occur in the middle of those dates when he would normally be putting together a cabinet and laying the foundation for his new administration. Testifying in a fraud trial (as one of the alleged defrauding agents) is a brutal task and usually requires considerable preparation by such a party. What is interesting is that a trial on January 2 would seem to be even worse timing for Trump in putting the trial right at the very doorstep of his possible inauguration.
The trial date now would seem set in concrete . . . it is everything else remains unpredictable.