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That upcoming Trump University trial: Trump doesn’t want jurors to hear the evidence



Imagine you’re a juror at the upcoming class action trial against Trump University, scheduled to begin Nov. 28 in San Diego federal court. The now-defunct Trump University, you’ll recall, was the phony “real estate school” that promised to teach students “the secrets of real estate success.” It bilked hundreds of them out of tens of thousands of dollars each by claiming to reveal “Trump’s secret insights into how to make money in real estate.” Of course, it was a scam—which has prompted the class action suit. The presiding judge, you may also recall, was Gonzalo P. Curiel, the same judge Trump called “a hater” who was “unfair” to him because Curiel is “Hispanic,” and because Trump is building that infamous wall along the Mexican border.

Trump couldn’t prevent the lawsuit from going forward, but he wanted Curiel thrown off the case. It didn’t work, but the judge did kindly allow the trial to be postponed until after the Nov. 9 Presidential election.

Now there’s another twist. Trump’s lawyer now is demanding that Judge Curiel not allow the jury to hear  important evidence, including any of Trump’s remarks about Curiel—or about Trump’s taxes, or his numerous bankruptcies,, or even the videotape of Trump bragging about grabbing women’s “pussies.”

Trump’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli—who represented Fred Goldman in the wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson and won the Goldman family $8.5 million—said he wants the above information banned from the jury because the trial should not be a test of Trump’s “character,” which even Petrocelli by this argument apparently concedes is horrible, but of Trump’s “management of the university.”

That’s what we call chutzpah in my family.

So if you were a juror in that trial, would you want to hear about Trump’s decades of bad behavior, questionable business practices and other instances of ripping people off, like not paying vendors? On the other hand, it’s almost inconceivable that any of the prospective jurors have not heard all that stuff by now, given the amplitude of media coverage. I would imagine Petrocelli, during voir dire jury selection, will look for the most ignorant, uninformed citizens he can find, incurious, uneducated yahoos who don’t pay attention to current events. After all, that’s Trump’s base, isn’t it?

By the way, if you’re still undecided—which, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not—here’s one reason to turn the House of Representatives blue. Republicans are already planning to impeach President Hillary Clinton. WTF you say? But it’s true. She hasn’t even been elected yet, and these Tea Partiers are sharpening their pitchforks and oiling up their torches. Isn’t it depraved?

  1. ” It bilked hundreds of them out of tens of thousands of dollars each by claiming to reveal “Trump’s secret insights into how to make money in real estate.” ”
    The secret insight is: Start a fake real estate school.

  2. I strongly disagree. The test is not — and should not be — what jurors might like to know. Jurors might like to know all sorts of things about the parties and witnesses before them: do they go to church, who do they vote for, are they gay, have they ever cheated on a spouse, how much money do they make… that doesn’t mean they SHOULD know those things.

    Trials are not, and should not be, all-purpose inquiries into who is a “good person” and who isn’t. Federal Rule of Evidence 404 places pretty strong restrictions on the use of so-called “character evidence.”

    The question before the jury will be whether Trump and his companies committed fraud on these particular plaintiffs. Whether Trump has said nasty things about the judge, about Hispanics in general, about women…. well, the list goes on, as we all know — is irrelevant to the actual issues. Trump is entitled to a fair trial even though you and I don’t like him.

    I would be surprised if Judge Curiel doesn’t grant the motion at least in large part (there may be a few items on that long list of things they want precluded that might be appropriate).

  3. I agree with some of what Jim B says, but in this case, the issue is complicated by the nature of the allegations against Trump. I don’t know a whole lot about the case, but I assume that fraud is part of it, which might open things up to evidence concerning Trump’s business actions (obviously, some of this doesn’t fall into that category). Also, if Trump testifies, some more of this evidence would probably be admissible for impeachment.

  4. Bob,

    I agree that, depending on the specific facts in dispute, some of Trump’s prior controversies may come up. For example, if the plaintiffs are claiming that one of the misrepresentations has to do with Trump’s wealth, then his testimony in a prior case about how his net worth varies from day to day depending on “how he feels” would seem to be relevant. But his general dishonesty in business matters probably wouldn’t be, and his statements about women almost certainly wouldn’t be. (And I agree regarding impeachment as well. Normally you’d expect a witness to be prepared not to open the door on these areas, but this is Trump — he couldn’t be bothered to prepare for a presidential debate, so I’m sure he’s capable of babbling about just about anything on the stand.)

  5. Jim B, we’re clearly on the same page.

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