Judge Orders $500 Bond in Trump U. Appeal Despite Class Calls for More

SAN DIEGO (CN) – A federal judge Tuesday ordered the woman who appealed the $25 million Trump University settlement to the Ninth Circuit to pay a $500 appeal bond, hundreds of thousands less than what class members had requested.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel gave Florida-based attorney Sherri Simpson a week to pay a $500 appeal bond to cover taxable costs associated with her appeal filed with the Ninth Circuit May 1.

Class members, frustrated that Simpson’s appeal will slow down their own payouts from the settlements, wanted the bond set much higher.

Simpson initially filed an objection to the settlement before it was formally approved by Curiel on March 31. Curiel denied Simpson’s objection, finding the settlement – which would allow former students of President Donald Trump’s now-defunct real estate school to recover 90 percent of what they paid – was fair.

The Florida woman wants to opt out as a class member to file her own lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, which would triple her damages if she prevailed.

The Ninth Circuit agreed to expedite hearing the case and is expected to take it up later this year.

Gary Friedman, Simpson’s attorney, said in a phone interview that they “got exactly what we asked for” from Curiel.

“We didn’t contest the idea of an appeal bond, we never asked for zero, we asked for $500,” Friedman said.

The order scraps a hearing scheduled in San Diego for Wednesday, although Friedman had already traveled to California from New York to argue his case before Curiel.

The Trump University class members had initially asked for a $220,000 bond, which they later lowered to $147,000 after the Ninth Circuit agreed to expedite hearing the case.

Curiel’s  10-page order found a $500 bond covering costs associated with preparing the appeal – including transcript fees, court appointed experts, printing and other costs – was appropriate and that Simpson is financially able to pay it.

In rejecting the class’ request for a $147,000 bond to cover settlement administration costs for the class, Curiel found California laws would not apply in Simpson’s case because she is a Florida resident.

“In the absence of an applicable fee-shifting statute, including settlement administration expenses in Simpson’s appeal bond would not be authorized by law,” Curiel wrote.

The appeal stalls payments to thousands of Trump University students hoping to pay back debt incurred when they shelled out up to $35,000 to learn purported insider real estate secrets from instructors touted to be handpicked by Trump himself.

Many of the class members are elderly, with class attorneys confirming in recently filed court documents that some have died while waiting to receive their settlement checks from the seven-year-long litigation.

Trump admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement. He paid the $25 million into an escrow account days before being sworn in as President.

All appeal briefs must be filed with the Ninth Circuit by July 26.

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