Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump did not have a leadership role in the running of now-defunct Trump University and therefore should not be part of a federal class-action lawsuit alleging fraud and deceptive marketing practices, an attorney for the defendants told a judge Friday.
Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli told U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel that the plaintiffs are seeking to hold Trump personally responsible for alleged fraud in the Trump University program.
“He did not run Trump University,” Petrocelli told the judge. “His involvement was fairly nil.”
But an attorney for the plaintiffs, Jason Forge, said Trump “set the tone” for promotion of the real estate program by his involvement in marketing and promotional ads.
“It’s abundantly clear that he (Trump) was the top man,” Forge told the judge.
Curiel said his tentative decision was to deny the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, but he took the matter under submission.
A nationwide class-action lawsuit and a California class-action suit accuse Trump University of engaging in deceptive practices and scamming thousands of students who enrolled, thinking it would make them rich in the real estate market.
Students at the shuttered real estate school paid as much as $35,000 to attend, according to documents in the class-action suit unsealed by Curiel at the behest of the Washington Post.
The lawsuits allege that Trump University falsely gave the impression that it was an accredited university, that students would be taught by experts hand-picked by Trump, and that they would get a year of mentoring.
Trump’s lawyers argued that many students gave the real estate program positive ratings and those who failed to succeed are themselves to blame.
Trump has criticized Curiel’s handling of the lawsuit, calling the Indiana-born former prosecutor a Mexican and asserting that his ancestry made him unfit to try the case. The statements on Curiel were widely condemned as racist, including by some GOP leaders.
Trial is scheduled for Nov. 28.
–City News Service
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