Consumer Law

Trump: Plaintiff shouldn’t be allowed to withdraw from Trump University lawsuit

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Donald Trump

Donald Trump. Joseph Sohm /

Donald Trump has asked the judge presiding over a class action lawsuit filed by former customers of Trump University not to allow the named plaintiff to withdraw from the case.

The Hollywood Reporter’s THR, Esq. blog reported Friday that the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination filed an objection with the United States District Court for the Southern District of California after named plaintiff Tarla Makaeff asked to leave the lawsuit.

Makaeff originally filed suit in April 2010 on behalf of herself and other customers, alleging that Trump University, which charged customers tens of thousands of dollars to attend seminars and receive one-on-one mentorship while learning how to get ahead in the real estate world, was nothing but a scam. The judge presiding over the case, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, certified a class action against Trump in October 2014.

According to the THR, Esq., Makaeff has cited “health problems, family loss, and financial troubles in the years since this case began,” as her reason for wanting out of the case. Trump’s presidential candidacy has also played a role, as Makaeff noted that “no one could have anticipated that he would become a viable presidential candidate and a 24/7 media obsession as this case neared trial.”

Trump’s lawyers, however, have argued that it’s not fair to their client for Makaeff to withdraw from the suit she initiated. “Make no mistake: this would eviscerate much of what has transpired in this case and would cause irremediable prejudice to defendants,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their court papers. “Makaeff is the critical witness in this case.” Trump’s lawyers argued that Makaeff had taken a high-profile role, including “prosecuting [her] claims in the press” and criticized her, noting that “despite her education, Makaeff failed to achieve success in real estate.”

Judge Curiel will rule on the motion, although Trump has indicated that he may ask the judge to recuse himself. “Because it was me, and because there is a hostility towards me from the judge—tremendous hostility beyond belief—I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine,” Trump said on Saturday during a rally in Arkansas. “He’s Hispanic, which is fine. And we haven’t asked for a recusal, which we may do. But we have a judge who is very hostile.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, New York’s Appellate Division, First Department, ruled that the statute of limitations does not bar a separate fraud suit by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against Donald Trump and businesses related to Trump University. Schneiderman’s $40 million suit had claimed Trump University was offering real-estate investing classes without obtaining a school license. Students who attended the classes were encouraged to take increasingly expensive courses in a “bait and switch” tactic, the attorney general had alleged.

The Trump Organization’s general counsel, Alan Garten, said the case was “politically motivated” and the decision would be appealed.

Updated March 3 to include information about the New York attorney general’s lawsuit.

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