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Those suing Donald Trump for alleged fraud over his Trump University real estate program have quickly voiced their dissent to a motion made to delay a trial scheduled to begin in San Diego on Nov. 28.
On Saturday night, Trump’s attorney Daniel Petrocelli asked U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel to delay proceedings until after the inauguration on Jan. 20.
“The 69 days until inauguration are critical and all-consuming,” wrote Petrocelli to the judge. “President-Elect Trump must receive daily security briefings, make executive appointments (ultimately, thousands), and establish relationships with appointees, members of Congress, governors, and foreign leaders. He must also develop important policy priorities… Now that the election is over, we submit that the President-Elect should not be required to stand trial during the next two months while he prepares to assume the Presidency. The time and attention to prepare and testify will take him away from imperative transition work at a critical time.”
The plaintiffs responded on Monday that Trump has failed to establish good cause for delay.
“We do know that any delay would be a slippery slope because President-Elect Trump’s life is only going to get more complicated and unpredictable as time goes by,” writes attorney Jason Forge. “Besides, his ex parte application concedes that he is available to testify prior to his inauguration, which means that he is available to testify at trial.”
The lawsuit contends that Trump made many misrepresentations to convince consumers to pay money to attend Trump University. Students allegedly were advised to max out credit cards and empty 401(k)s to hear motivational speakers who supposedly were “handpicked” by Trump. Petrocelli has said that Trump will be an “important witness” and that he’ll show that those who attended Trump University knew exactly what they were getting.
Even before Trump takes office, the dispute could set off an important side battle.
That’s because Curiel has already indicated an unwillingness to delay any further a case that’s been pending for more than six years. (He’s been urging the parties to settle.) In Trump’s Saturday evening motion, Petrocelli wrote that if the judge denied a postponement, Trump alternatively wanted a temporary stay to permit an appeal for emergency relief.
In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court examined Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton, and decided that although federal courts must afford deference to the U.S. President and have discretion to manage scheduling conflicts arising from the office, this alone can’t be enough to stop the leader of the country from facing lawsuits.
Both sides nod to Clinton v. Jones in court papers, with Trump’s side emphasizing pragmatism and plaintiffs responding that he’s not even president yet. Forge writes, “This is not a separation-of-powers issue. Nor is it any other form of Constitutional issue.”
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