Post-Election Trial Date|Set in Trump U. Fight

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — A federal judge on Friday set a post-election trial date of Nov. 28 for one of three class action lawsuits against Donald Trump’s defunct online university.
     Tarla Makaeff and other former Trump University students sued the GOP presidential nominee claiming he defrauded students who paid to learn insider knowledge about real estate investing. Makaeff formally withdrew as lead plaintiff last month and is now an absent class member.
     U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel opened the final pretrial conference in Makaeff v. Trump University by telling counsel on both sides of the case he’s “disappointed” and finds it “disturbing” the two sides cannot agree on pretrial procedures, noting the disputes have prevented the 6-year-old case from moving forward.
     The attorneys could not even agree on the statement of case to present the jury, Curiel pointed out.
     “You all are on polar opposites,” Curiel told the attorneys. “All the attorneys here are some of the top legal minds in the country. We don’t need to spend a lot of time on things that at the end of the day won’t matter that much,” he said.
     Curiel told the packed courtroom he originally thought it would be a two-week trial, but it now looks it could run up to four weeks — which may or may not include additional time allotted for the jury selection.
     Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli told Curiel he believes jury selection is going “to be a very challenging endeavor.”
     Petrocelli asked Curiel to “exercise discretion” in choosing a trial date after the presidential election Nov. 8, suggesting a trial date for February 2017 — after Inauguration Day — was more appropriate.
     “If Mr. Trump is unsuccessful in November, I imagine he will have a lot of free time on his hands and we could set a trial date then,” Petrocelli told Curiel.
     Petrocelli said Trump plans to attend most of the trial and will “certainly” testify as a witness.
     Class attorney Jason Forge requested a trial date in July or August, dates that had been previously discussed in court hearings on the second-oldest case in the Southern District of California.
     “We are anxious to get this case to trial. I do believe in the principle of justice delayed is justice denied. This is not a prototypical class action. These are real people who spent a significant amount of money from their retirement and are still paying back debt,” Forge said.
     Forge argued that since Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee following exits by Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich this week, Trump could possibly skip the Republican National Convention in July and could “get the case tried and done by when the Democratic convention concludes.”
     When Curiel pressed Forge on his argument for a summer trial date, again citing his concerns over “insulating the jury from events that may happen around the courthouse,” Forge conceded he would be happy with a firm trial date after Thanksgiving.
     “We can’t reasonably ask for more than that, but in the matter of justice we can’t ask for less than that either,” Forge said.
     Citing concerns raised by Forge over elderly class representative Sonny Low — the only representative for the elder abuse claim against Trump University — Curiel asked Petrocelli if he thought it was reasonable to consider Low’s age and the need to move the case forward.
     “We’re only talking about nine to 10 months. They had no problem removing Tarla Makaeff after six years; I’m sure they could find another representative for the elder abuse claim if they needed to,” Petrocelli said.
     Bringing it back to the heart of the matter, Curiel told both attorneys that his top priority is securing a fair jury.
     “I’m trying to do everything I can to ensure a fair jury and have the jury decide the case based on evidence and law and not outside events,” Curiel said.
     While the trial date is set for the week after Thanksgiving, Curiel indicated he is still debating whether to hold jury selection earlier in November. The panel will also be slightly smaller, Curiel said, as he is inclined to call an eight- or nine-person jury rather than the usual 12.
     Petrocelli told reporters outside the courtroom that he is “appreciative” that Curiel set the trial for after the presidential election. But he said Trump’s attorneys will be filing “serious motions” on both class actions out of San Diego, including a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the related Cohen v. Trump.
     “The idea of subjecting Mr. Trump to two trials is unconscionable to me,” Petrocelli said.

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