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Deposition Seal Partly Lifted in Trump U. Spat

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A federal judge this week lifted a seal on portions of Donald Trump's deposition taken in a class action filed against the billionaire, finding portions of it were not entitled to confidential protection.

The Republican presidential front-runner gave his deposition on Jan. 21 for a class action filed by Art Cohen over claims he defrauded students through Trump University. The plaintiffs who filed suit against Trump disputed whether three topics discussed in his deposition should remain confidential: statements on public figures, statements on a licensing agreement between Trump University and a third party, and statements on profits shared between Trump and the university bearing his name.

The class claims Trump misused the protective order and "over-designated" portions of his deposition transcript as confidential.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge William Gallo's 9-page order summarized the class claims that Trump "ignored the narrow provisions of the protective order."

"They argue that even where the transcript includes legitimately confidential information, only that specific information which is protected from the public view may be designated confidential," Gallo wrote.

The class also contends the confidentiality designations are "tremendously burdensome" and will tack on added costs associated with filing transcript portions under seal in future motions.

According to Gallo's summary, Trump asserts the plaintiffs' "piecemeal confidentiality designation proposal is impractical and unduly burdensome." Requiring the defendant to parse the confidentiality status on a line by line basis is unfair, Trump argued.

The burden of proof rests on the party seeking to keep the deposition secret, Gallo noted, and must prove if there is harm. The court must also consider the balance of public and private interests and the possibility of redacting sensitive material, Gallo wrote.

The court also reviewed documents in a related case, Makaeff v. Trump University, which may go to trial later this year.

Trump argued his statements about public figures, spanning about 26 pages of his deposition, are properly designated as confidential. Protecting that testimony is necessary, Trump claimed, because "such testimony will be publicly disseminated and used against him in the current presidential campaign."

The court found Trump's statements on public figures are not entitled to confidentiality, noting most of Trump's original statements "appear to originate from public sources including past blog articles published by Trump University."

Regarding the plaintiff's request to de-designate about three pages of Trump's deposition that discussed a licensing agreement between Trump University and a third party, the court found the challenged testimony is entitled to confidential designation since "the law supports shielding sensitive business information from public disclosure," Gallo wrote.

"Trump University LLC is not the defendant in this case. Regardless of the outcome of defendant's presidential campaign, it is not speculation to believe the defendant will continue his own private business dealings," Gallo wrote.

If the information was made public, it could affect Trump's future business dealings as it reflects his "business strategy and acumen," Gallo added.

The class also requested that three pages of testimony regarding shared profits between Trump and Trump University be made public, arguing that Trump's testimony over shared profits was not entitled to protection because he has already "publicly disclosed information regarding his finances during the presidential campaign."

Gallo agreed with the class that only specific financial figures should be redacted.

"The court disagrees that the entire line of questioning regarding the profits shared between defendant and Trump University is subject to protection," Gallo wrote.

The judge found only four portions of the testimony on shared profits should remain protected.

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