Donald Trump's attorneys have been denied a request as they go about defending their client from charges related to the Trump University case.
According to a ruling posted on the federal court's website today (September 20), the lawyers filed a motion requesting an opportunity to argue for allowing former students who are not members of the class-action lawsuit a chance to testify in the case.
Former students sued Trump and his (now-defunct) real-estate university in April 2010 for what they claim was a pure money-making scheme. Students say that instructors were more concerned about bilking money from them for additional classes and expensive instruction packages than they were interested in their education.
Instructors, alleges the complaint, persuaded students to take out small loans, borrow money from relatives, or max out credit cards to pay for the materials and extra classes.
During the course of the past year the lawsuit has served as a distraction for the Republican presidential candidate. Earlier this year, Trump was criticized for questioning whether federal judge Gonzalo Curiel could remain unbiased due to his Mexican heritage and Trump's stance on illegal immigration.
Judge Gonzalo Curiel
Last month, Judge Curiel ruled against a motion from Trump's attorneys to dismiss the case. Curiel delivered this latest blow to Trump as well.
Not allowing Trump University students who are not a part of the class action to testify, says lead Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli in a September 19 court filing, essentially sets the stage for a one-sided trial.
"Under the guise of 'streamlining' a trial in which they accuse defendants of fraud and elder abuse, plaintiffs seek to prevent the jury from hearing testimony of former students of Trump University, except for plaintiffs’ three self-selected named representatives. No authority exists for such a one-sided affair."
Petrocelli says the non-class members could offer a different view and help jurors determine whether they were told Trump University was an accredited college and whether they felt that Trump would actually play a part in their curriculum.
"Such testimony is indisputably relevant and important for a jury to consider in determining whether plaintiffs have established their class case. Of course, plaintiffs will have the opportunity to object at trial to specific questions, cross-examine the former students, and offer their own evidence if they see fit to do so. And, naturally, the Court will regulate the admission and exclusion of all evidence proffered by both sides."
One such former student was Meena Mohan. In July 2015, Mohan provided testimony in a separate class-action lawsuit brought by Art Cohen in Orange County. In her testimony, included in Petrocelli's September 19 motion, Mohan testified about her experience as a Trump University student. She said that she was never told that she had to leave positive reviews of the university. Nor was she ever led to believe that Trump University was actually an accredited or licensed university.
As to Trump's involvement, Mohan said the following in her July 2015 deposition: "I believed that some of [Trump's] ideas must have been in the part of the package, but other than that, personal involvement, zero. That was my understanding."
The case is set to head to trial on November 28.