SAN FRANCISCO – A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld an agreement requiring President Donald Trump to pay $25 million to settle lawsuits accusing his now-defunct Trump University of fraud.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an effort by student Sherri Simpson to opt out of the deal and pursue her own lawsuit.
The move would have derailed the settlement resolving lawsuits that claimed the university pressured students to spend tens of thousands of dollars but then failed to deliver on promises to teach them how to be successful in real estate.
Simpson didn’t drop out of the agreement initially and claimed she had the right to do so before it was finalized. A three-judge panel of the court unanimously disagreed, saying neither a notice to affected students nor due process gave her a second chance to opt out.
The court also said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had ample reason to approve the deal.
“Both classes of plaintiffs would have faced significant hurdles had they proceeded to trial, including the difficulty of prevailing in a jury trial against either the president-elect (if the trial had proceeded as scheduled) or the sitting president,” Judge Jacqueline Nguyen wrote for the panel.
An attorney for Simpson referred comment to another attorney, who did not immediately respond.
The two class-action lawsuits and a civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman followed Trump throughout the presidential campaign.
Trump fueled the controversy by repeatedly insinuating that Curiel’s Mexican heritage made him biased against Trump. Trump had vowed never to settle but said after the election that he didn’t have time for a trial.
The president did not acknowledge any wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement.
In a statement Tuesday, Scheiderman said the 9th Circuit ruling “means that victims of Donald Trump’s fraudulent university will soon receive the $25 million in relief they deserve.”
Plaintiffs’ attorneys have said about 3,730 people will get at least 90 percent of their money back under the deal.
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