Judge Limits Discovery in Trump RICO Case

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – Donald Trump need not turn over emails or records of his contribution to Trump University for a RICO class action accusing him of defrauding students of millions of dollars, a federal judge ruled.
     Former student Art Cohen sued Trump in October 2013, claiming the billionaire misrepresented Trump University as a real university, though it’s just a scheme to bilk people for millions.
     The class was certified in October 2014.
     Cohen claimed he spent more than $36,000 for real estate classes that Trump promised would teach him Trump’s investing strategies, but he found that Trump does not teach any classes, design the program’s curriculum or choose professors.
     Cohen claimed Trump spent more than $6 million in advertising to lure people into the program.
     Tarla Makaeff filed a similar class action against Trump and Trump University in 2010 alleging deceptive business practices. The case is no longer a class action and Trump is no longer a defendant.
     On July 2, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled that Trump must disclose in discovery how much money he made from Trump University, but that he need not hand over documents on contributions made, or benefits received by, his partners.
     Four more discovery disputes emerged that month. The court resolved two of them and ordered the parties to send a joint statement for the others, which involve emails between several corporate officers of the Trump Organization and documents concerning Trump’s contributions to Trump University.
     In the most recent ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Gallo on July 31 denied Cohen’s motions to compel discovery of the requested documents.
     Cohen argued that he is entitled to see emails between Jason Greenblatt, general counsel of Trump Organization, its CFO Allen Weisselberg and its executive vice president George Sorial.
     He claimed the emails are not subject to attorney-client privilege because Weisselberg and Greenblatt denied giving or receiving legal advice related to Trump University, and because Sorial contradicted testimony he gave for the Makaeff case concerning his involvement in an internal investigation of Trump University and how to respond to a subpoena from the New York Attorney General’s Office concerning usage of the word “university.”
     In rebuttal, Trump argued that Cohen waited too long to request the emails and that they are protected by attorney-client privilege because they involve communications between legal counsel and corporate clients concerning legal representation.
     Gallo sided with Trump, pointing out that the court has previously denied Cohen’s discovery request for the 2011 emails.
     Weisselberg’s and Greenblatt’s recent depositions provide no new evidence to waive attorney-client privilege because Cohen knew about their involvement in Makaeff for years, but chose to depose them himself only recently, Gallo ruled.
     The judge found Cohen’s arguments about Weisselberg’s testimony misleading because the “snippets” he chose relate to Weisselberg’s lack of involvement in, and communication concerning, a legal issue from 2005, not 2011. Moreover, Trump provided ample evidence that Weisselberg was a client of the Trump Organization when he exchanged the 2011 emails.
     Cohen’s arguments concerning Greenblatt fail as untimely, and also because they erroneously assert that Greenblatt did not provide legal counsel concerning Trump University in 2011, though his testimony states that he does not remember doing so – which does not mean he did not give legal advice, Gallo wrote.
     He denied Cohen’s request to depose Sorial because Cohen failed to mention that Sorial testified to getting status calls from his attorney in the New York subpoena matter, indicating that he actually was involved. Even if Sorial did contradict himself, Gallo added, it is not enough to waive attorney-client privilege.
     Gallo also shot down claims that Cohen is entitled to see financial documents concerning Trump’s and his partners’ contributions to Trump University.
     Trump handed over a few documents but held back the rest, which Cohen said should have been handed over with the others. He claimed that Judge Curiel had ordered all such documents released.
     Gallo disagreed, saying that Curiel had denied Cohen’s request as overbroad and stipulated that he will be able to reopen certain people’s depositions to ask about the contribution process for Trump University, nothing more.
     Cohen’s assertion that he is merely seeking full discovery, in accord with Curiel’s order, is nothing but a “semantical word game” designed to gain access to documents he has been barred from having, Gallo wrote.
     Claims that Trump agreed to hand over the documents after the court handled the deposition dispute also fail because Cohen has no evidence of any such agreement. Declarations from the parties’ counsel reveal that they did not agree on the scope of document production, and an email between attorneys that Cohen said expressed this agreement was never submitted into evidence.
     Attorneys for both sides did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
     Gallo closed the ruling by ordering the parties to complete fact discovery by Aug. 10.

%d bloggers like this: