Meeting #7: Legal Disputes
Members of the Hiring Committee,
We continue our review of the candidate, Mr. Trump, with a discussion of his relationship with the legal system. Our initial investigation revealed that the candidate has been involved in a significant amount of litigation over the course of his life. While the courtroom is an entirely appropriate forum, if not the best forum, for many types of disputes, the Committee was surprised as further examination revealed a truly voluminous history of litigation involving the candidate.
Overall, it appears that Mr. Trump and his businesses have been involved in over 4,000 lawsuits as either the plaintiff or defendant. As a plaintiff, Mr. Trump has filed lawsuits against Palm Beach County for $100 million in order to change the flight path of planes he believed were flying too close to one of his South Florida resorts, a Miss USA contestant for criticizing the beauty pageant on social media, and the Chicago Tribune for $500 million after its architectural critic wrote that one of Mr. Trump’s planned hotels would not be taller than the Sears Tower. These lawsuits paint a picture of a man who uses the legal system not to settle disputes, but to initiate them.
The various lawsuits Mr. Trump has filed also indicate that the candidate is someone who goes to court as a first, rather than a last, resort. When reporter Tim O’Brien claimed in his 2005 book “Trump Nation” that Mr. Trump was worth at most $250 million, Mr. Trump sued him. While his lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, Mr. Trump expressed satisfaction with the outcome, stating that “I had great success doing what I wanted to do — costing a third rate reporter a lot of legal fees.” The Committee is concerned by the fact that rather than seeking to have his legal claim vindicated, Mr. Trump used the legal system as a means to harass a detractor.
After reviewing lawsuits brought by Mr. Trump, the Committee turned to the more than one thousand lawsuits in which Mr. Trump and his companies have been the defendants. These lawsuits range from contract disagreements to employment cases to lawsuits alleging that Mr. Trump’s hotels do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. While the Committee understands that a dynamic business career will inevitably invite a certain number of lawsuits, it finds itself concerned that Mr. Trump appears to have invited an unusually consistent stream of litigation.
Mr. Trump is currently facing numerous lawsuits related to Trump University, his real estate education enterprise, as former students and staff have condemned it as a manipulative scam. A current lawsuit against Mr. Trump, which brings racketeering claims against him for his role in Trump University, claims that Trump University was part of a multiyear scheme to make millions by misleading students into believing that they were receiving elite instruction from handpicked instructors. In May of this year, Trump Miami Resort Management settled a lawsuit brought by 48 servers who worked at Trump National Doral Miami, who alleged that Mr. Trump failed to pay them overtime after some workers put in 20-hour days over a 10-day Passover event at Mr. Trump’s golf resort. Mr. Trump’s businesses have also been involved in over one hundred disputes related to unpaid taxes or the amount of their tax obligations.
The Committee finds itself perhaps most concerned with Mr. Trump’s relationship with the judiciary itself. While his overzealous relationship with litigation is troubling, the candidate’s recent statements calling into question the competence of a federal judge hearing a case filed against Mr. Trump by former Trump University workers in California were particularly disconcerting. Respect for the judiciary is a vital part of our nation’s rule of law, the very rule of law that the president is sworn to uphold, but this did not stop Mr. Trump from calling Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel biased and “a hater of Donald Trump” because of his Mexican descent. While Mr. Trump need not be obsequious with respect to the judge presiding over his case, a level of respect and civility are expected when dealing with members of the judiciary acting in their capacity as arbiters of the law.
In summary, while the Committee takes note of the candidate’s significant familiarity and experience with the legal process, it is concerned that Mr. Trump appears to care little for the larger societal importance of the legal system. Rather than approaching the courts with sincere disputes and grievances, Mr. Trump uses America’s already overburdened court system to strike back at those who criticize him with insubstantial, sometimes even frivolous, lawsuits. On the other hand, many of the claims brought against Mr. Trump appear to be of legal substance, and indicate that the candidate is much less concerned with the legality of his own behavior than he is with the behavior of others. Finally, Mr. Trump’s lack of humility and professionalism in interacting with the judiciary is very concerning, especially in light of the position he seeks and the separation of powers that underlies it.
We will continue our consideration of the candidate next week.
This meeting is formally opened for discussion until we reconvene next Tuesday.