SAN DIEGO (CN) — A federal judge late Monday shut down what can only be described as a document war between former Trump University students suing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, siding with the students who say Trump is trying to delay the Nov. 28 trial.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel wrote in a concise 2-page order that the more than 1,500 pages of exhibits filed by one of Trump's attorneys last week along with their motions to exclude evidence "far exceeds the limit set by the court."
Curiel found attorney David Kirman's declaration, accompanied by more than 1,500 pages in exhibits, should be stricken. He did grant Trump's counsel leave to file an amended declaration in support of the motions to exclude, provided it follows Curiel's Aug. 2. order that each motion be no longer than 10 pages and include no more than 10 pages in supporting documents.
But Curiel denied the plaintiffs' request to disregard Trump's arguments for excluding evidence based on the stricken exhibits and will allow his attorneys to argue for excluding evidence they don't want entering the trial next month.
Last week, the parties in Low v. Trump University filed a host of documents and declarations asking U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to exclude certain evidence from next month's trial. Notably, Trump wants to bar basically all campaign fodder he's said or that's been said about him during his stump for president, citing concerns of prejudicing the jury.
While Curiel will likely grant most of Trump's requests — having said previously he wants the case to be judged on the facts — Trump himself has made the Trump University lawsuit a campaign issue when he's talked publicly about the case and said Curiel was biased against him because he is of Mexican descent.
The class claims they were duped into paying up to $35,000 to learn "insider" real estate secrets from instructors handpicked by Trump. But they say Trump University turned out to be little more than an infomercial they shelled out thousands for.
Now Sonny Low and the other plaintiffs say Trump is trying again to delay the trial by not following Curiel's Aug. 2 order for filing motions to exclude evidence.
Curiel's order limited each party to only eight motions to exclude evidence, with each motion limited to 10 pages. They were also instructed to file no more than 10 pages of attachments in support of each motion for a total of 80 pages.
Low and the others say one of Trump's attorneys, David Kirman, filed 109 exhibits totaling more than 1,500 pages in an "omnibus declaration" in support of Trump's motions to exclude evidence. Trump exceeded the court-imposed page limits by more than 1,500 pages or nearly 2,000 percent, the class claims.
The class says Trump is "trying to force" the plaintiffs to choose between responding to 20 times more pages of exhibits than Curiel allowed or "risk overlooking defendants' mischaracterization of an exhibit." Trump's tactic is to essentially throw the trial off its post-election start date, the plaintiffs say.
"Plaintiffs do not want to extend the filing deadline because doing so would reward defendants with a step toward the trial delay they have been seeking for weeks — overtly and impliedly through similar tactics," the class filing states.
Over the past year, Curiel has been adamant the six-year-old case make it to trial — he's even said its one of the oldest, if not the oldest, cases still on his docket. Originally Curiel and the plaintiffs wanted to see the case go to trial this summer, but Trump's lead attorney Daniel Petrocelli asked for after the Republican National Convention.
Petrocelli wanted the trial to be set for January 2017 after a possible President Trump inauguration, but Curiel set the Nov. 28 trial date months ago - after which Trump's attorney revealed a possible conflict with another trial he's litigating. The judge refused to push the trial back any further, which the plaintiffs noted in their latest filing.
"Defendants attempted to postpone the trial date after it was already moved to accommodate defendants' prior request, on the pretext of overlap with a separate trial that does not actually conflict and which defense counsel knew about for months," the plaintiffs say.
They add Trump has refused to provide a list of exhibits his attorneys plan to use at trial, instead offering a "bloated list" of more than 1,100 documents in an attempt to "impede plaintiffs' trial preparation and set up a trial by ambush."
The plaintiffs asked Curiel to strike Kirman's declaration and the 1,500-plus documents attached to it.
In Trump's response Monday, Petrocelli said Kirman's declaration contains no argument, but authenticates 109 exhibits that the plaintiffs are seeking to exclude from the trial. He says they "fully complied" with Curiel's order and the 109 exhibits were included so the judge could review firsthand what Trump claims is irrelevant, heresy, inadmissible, opinion and prejudicial because "without the documents in front of it, the court would have no foundation on which to properly rule on its admissibility."
He also says the plaintiffs' prejudice claims are disingenuous because nearly all the exhibits are the plaintiffs' own trial exhibits or deposition designations.
"Plaintiffs cannot claim ignorance of the specific evidence they have identified for use at trial, nor can they complain when such evidence is submitted to the court for consideration," Petrocelli wrote.
But the plaintiffs say Trump's "defiant response" is a clear violation of Curiel's order on the motions to exclude evidence and "confirms that his gamesmanship will continue unless it results in some sort of meaningful consequence."
They add in response: "Only someone who considers himself above the law, as well as the court, could attempt to justify such flagrant defiance with an argument that is equal parts absurd and insulting: it's the court's fault.
"The court, and plaintiffs, have better things to do than to police Trump and his defense team's refusal to play by the rules, but this nonsense must stop," the plaintiffs said.
A hearing on the motions in limine is scheduled for Nov. 10.
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