Trump lawyers to urge dismissal of university case in U.S. court

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 22, 2016 6:08 AM

By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. District judge will hear arguments on Friday over whether to dismiss a 2013 fraud lawsuit against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stemming from his Trump University real-estate seminars.

Trump's lawyers will also ask federal judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego to decertify the class action, which would force students to file individual lawsuits rather than pursue their fraud cases together.

The lawsuit, one of at least three over the defunct Trump University, was filed on behalf of students who paid up to $35,000 to learn Trump's real estate investing "secrets" from his "hand-picked" instructors.

The cases against Trump University have regularly cropped up during the presidential campaign. Trump ignited a firestorm of criticism in May when he accused Curiel, who is of Mexican descent, of being biased against him because of the candidate's pledge to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Curiel, who was born in Indiana, is presiding over two of the cases, with one set for trial in late November. A separate lawsuit by New York's attorney general is pending in that state.

Trump's lawyers say Curiel should toss the 2013 California lawsuit on the grounds that Trump, though personally involved in developing the concept and curriculum, relied on other executives to manage Trump University by the time the plaintiffs purchased their seminars.

In addition, Trump's lawyers claim references in marketing materials to "secrets," "hand-picked" instructors or "university" were mere sales "puffery." According to the defense, there is no evidence Trump intended to defraud students.

Lawyers for the students have rejected those arguments, saying the New York developer conducted the marketing for Trump University more than anyone else, starring in and approving promotional materials.

They claim Trump University instructors were high-pressure sales people, not "professors and adjunct professors" as Trump touted, and that New York authorities told Trump back in 2005 to stop calling his unaccredited venture a university.

Trump owned 92 percent of Trump University and had control over all major decisions, plaintiffs' court papers say, and should be held liable under a statute targeting racketeering.

The court papers also say Trump confessed to misrepresentations in sworn testimony, and that evidence of his intent to defraud is "overwhelming."

(Reporting By Karen Freifeld; Editing by Anthony Lin and Tom Brown)