By Tracy Rucinski
CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has requested that a trial over a lawsuit by former students of his now-defunct Trump University be put on hold until after the presidential inauguration, according to a motion filed by his lawyer late Saturday.
A trial in federal court in San Diego over former Trump University students’ claims that they were defrauded by a series of real-estate seminars is scheduled to begin on Nov. 28, but Trump lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said the president-elect needs to “devote all of his time and attention to the transition process.”
Trump is due to assume office on Jan. 20, 2017.
“The 69 days until inauguration are critical and all-consuming,” Petrocelli said in the filing, arguing that the president-elect should not be required to stand trial during that time.
Petrocelli had said at a hearing in San Diego on Thursday that he would request the delay, though U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing the lawsuit, told lawyers he was not inclined to put off the six-year-old case further and encouraged the parties to settle.
The lawsuit involves students who claim they were lured by false promises to pay up to $35,000 to learn Trump’s real estate investing “secrets” from his “hand-picked” instructors.
Trump owned 92 percent of Trump University and had control over all major decisions, the students’ court papers say. The president-elect denies the allegations and has argued that he relied on others to manage the business.
Curiel also tentatively rejected last week a bid by the president-elect to keep a wide range of statements from the presidential campaign, which included attacks against Curiel himself, out of the fraud trial.
Trump attacked the judge as biased against him. He claimed Curiel, who was born in Indiana but is of Mexican descent, could not be impartial because of Trump’s election campaign pledge to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that Curiel should bar from the trial accusations about Trump’s personal conduct including alleged sexual misconduct, his taxes and corporate bankruptcies, along with speeches and tweets.
Curiel is presiding over two cases against Trump and the university. A separate lawsuit by New York’s attorney general is pending.
While presidents enjoy immunity from lawsuits arising from their official duties, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that this shield does not extend to acts alleged to have taken place prior to taking office.
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Alan Crosby)