A federal judge said Friday that he is inclined to deny a request by Donald Trump's lawyers to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses the Republican presidential nominee of defrauding customers at the now-defunct Trump University.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel did not elaborate on his thinking during a lengthy hearing in San Diego — one day after Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president of the United States.
Trump's attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, urged the judge to reconsider, calling the lawsuit a "gross overreach" of federal civil racketeering statutes. He told the judge the plaintiffs have failed to show that Trump himself orchestrated allegedly misleading marketing claims.
"He did not run Trump University. He was not the chief operating officer. He did not direct the day-to-day affairs," Petrocelli said. "The idea that he is somehow at the center of it is not supported by the evidence in the case."
Curiel, a target of the nominee's repeated public scorn, will issue a final decision in writing at a later time.
The complaint, filed in 2013 by former customer Art Cohen, is one of two class-action lawsuits that Trump is facing in San Diego over Trump University before the same judge. Trump also faces a lawsuit in New York.
The lawsuits allege that Trump University gave seminars and classes in hotel ballrooms across the country that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring customers to buy more and, in the end, failing to deliver. Cohen went to a three-day seminar in 2009 in Palo Alto, California, for $1,495 and bought into the "Gold Elite" mentorship program for $34,995.
Trump has maintained that customers were overwhelmingly satisfied and that he did nothing to deceive them.
Trump University's sales pitches "are classic examples of sales puffery common to advertising everywhere," his lawyers said in court documents filed for Friday's hearing arguing the lawsuit is an abuse of federal racketeering conspiracy statutes. They minimize Trump's involvement, saying he delegated responsibilities after creating Trump University in 2005.
Lawyers for the plaintiff wrote mockingly that Trump's lawyers should argue their case on Earth, not in "District Court in Bizarro World." They dismiss Trump's claims of limited involvement, saying, "He only starred in the marketing materials. Signed them. Corrected them. And approved them."
The Cohen lawsuit has not been scheduled for trial. The trial for the other lawsuit is set for Nov. 28.
Friday was the second time in a month that Curiel has faced Trump's lawyers. Last week, news organizations argued that he should allow the release of Trump's sworn testimony at depositions in December and January.
Trump's lawyers, fearing the video will be used in campaign attack ads, argued that transcripts should be enough. Curiel has yet to rule on the video request.
When Curiel permitted the release of unrelated documents in the case in May, Trump intensified his attacks on the judge, mentioning his Mexican heritage. Those remarks drew criticism from Republican leaders.
Trump vowed in early June to avoid talking about the judge.