What Is Really Going On In The Trump University Cases With Judge Gonzalo Curiel?
Not what you think. The racial slurs and claims of partiality are actually a well-thought-out strategy to delay the cases and obtain a recusal of the current federal judge — Gonzalo Curiel.
In December of 2015, Donald Trump replaced his second set of lawyers handling the Trump University San Diego class-action and racketeering lawsuits …. You’re Fired!
His choice for replacement counsel the third time around was curious. It is a lawyer named Daniel Petrocelli. One of his career highlights is representation of Jeffrey Skilling over the collapse of Enron. In closing arguments in the Skilling case, Petrocelli described Enron as a “Shining Star” and a “Wonderful Company”. The jury didn’t agree with his assessment of either Enron or his client.
The result? A 25 year one-way ticket to federal prison for Mr. Petrocelli’s client, plus a $50 million dollar fine, and a $70 million dollar legal bill for the effort.
But it is known in certain circles that Mr. Petrocelli has a peculiar set of skills, and his talents are much in demand …. despite the miserable results of the Skilling case. He will literally stop at nothing, legal or illegal, to get or keep his well-heeled clients out of trouble. And the fact that Mr. Trump hired Petrocelli is a clear sign of trouble with a capital T.
The facts regarding the Trump University cases get worse every day as new revelations come to light. Especially after the recent release of sealed documents containing extraordinarily damaging testimony by key Trump University executives and employees. Mr. Petrocelli fought hard to keep these documents out of public view. He lost.
The pending Trump University cases are class-action lawsuits and include racketeering allegations. Either flavor of lawsuit is dangerous, but together they are lethal. Treble damages. Punitive damages. A shift of legal fees and costs to the defendant — Trump. Huge financial and reputational damage exposure. Ouch.
A review of the timeline indicates that the unwarranted attacks on federal judge Gonzalo Curiel in February of 2016 began shortly after the arrival of Mr. Trumps’ new lawyer. This is not a coincidence. It is a strategy. The judge has been on the cases for years, but only now is being accused of “judging whilst Mexican-American”. This new strategy was, of course, enthusiastically endorsed by Mr. Trump. Name-Calling? Racial Slurs? Great! That’s Huuuge! Welcome Aboard!
The record shows that Petrocelli is no stranger to hurling completely fabricated allegations to distract and divert a judge, a jury, or the public from the facts of a case. In fact, that is what he does for a living. It is all part of defending the indefensible. Next we will hear from him that Trump University was a “Shining Star” and a “Wonderful Company”. Right.
The attacks on the very capable and well-respected judge are clearly a very high-risk strategy. The real purpose is to set the table for a motion to disqualify the judge, delay the proceedings, attempt to intimidate the judiciary, and, in the alternate, to set up an appeal of an almost sure-loser case. The TU playbooks unveiled recently for the general public are nothing less than step-by-step guides to calculated fraud. The sworn testimony of key TU executives and employees is appalling.
Consider this: what ethical and legitimate lawyer or law firm would continue to represent Mr. Trump after repeated national attacks on the federal judge actually presiding over the TU cases? Very few, if any. By his very presence in the cases, Mr. Petrocelli is endorsing and advising a completely unwarranted attack on a federal judge, and the use of the word Mexican as a pejorative. Tell that to our 122 million neighbors to the south, not to mention the millions of Mexican-Americans legitimately in the country.
And even a cursory review of the judge’s qualifications reveals the false and fabricated nature of of the accusations regarding impartiality: Judge Curiel played a meaningful role in dismantling the Arellano-Felix drug cartel ….. and required protection from death threats for having done so. He showed no fear, reluctance, or partiality in putting away a major Mexican drug dealer.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Petrocelli are simply executing a jointly-agreed strategy to try to derail two very meritorious cases moving rapidly toward trial. Too rapidly. The court can expect to see a motion soon to disqualify the judge based on false allegations dreamed up by Mr. Petrocelli and shouted by Mr. Trump. This will fail. But the denial will be the basis of an appeal and a request to delay the proceedings while the appeal process winds through the courts.
But for now, the name-calling will continue, false accusations and “trumped up” claims will multiply, and Trump’s attack-dog lawyer will continue to invent new distractions and diversions to mislead and misdirect attention away from the egregious facts surrounding the cases. And that is what is going on in the Trump University cases.