A federal judge on Thursday tentatively denied a request to ban statements made by and about President-elect Donald Trump during his campaign from being used at the San Diego trial of a lawsuit involving him and his now-defunct Trump University.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the Indiana-born jurist who was accused of bias by Trump over his Mexican heritage, issued his decision in the class-action suit hours before attorneys for Trump and those suing him were expected to appear in court to discuss what evidence will be allowed and other issues involving the trial set to begin Nov. 28.
The highly unusual petition would apply to Trump's tweets, a video of Trump making sexually predatory comments about women, his tax history, revelations about his private charitable foundation and the public criticism of the judge in the case.
Trump's attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, told the judge last month that evidence tied to the campaign would be irrelevant to the civil fraud case and may prejudice or inflame a jury, jeopardizing the right to a fair trial.
Lawsuit filed in 2010
The lawyer warned that allowing the jury to consider Trump's remarks ``carries an immediate and irreparable danger of extreme and irremediable prejudice to defendants, confusion of issues and waste of time.''
Curiel said he was prepared to deny the request because Trump's attorneys didn't specify what evidence they wanted to exclude. He said he would consider specific objections at trial.
The lawsuit filed in 2010 on behalf of former customers alleges that Trump University, which was not accredited as a school, gave seminars and classes across the country that were like infomercials, pressuring people to spend up to $35,000 for mentorships and, in the end, failing on its promise to teach success in real estate.
The claims mirror another class-action complaint in San Diego and a lawsuit in New York.
Petrocelli told reporters in May that Trump planned to attend most, if not all, of the trial and would testify.
“He has very, very strong feelings about this case,” Petrocelli said at the time.
First phase to look at liability
At the May hearing, Petrocelli asked for a trial after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, but the judge raised concerns about distractions if Trump won the election.
The attorney said the period between the election and swearing-in is extremely hectic for a president-elect but that it was preferable to holding a trial during the campaign.
The liability phase of the trial is expected to last four to six weeks. If Trump is found liable, the trial would move to a second phase on damages.