A Florida bankruptcy lawyer who paid about $19,000 for classes at Trump University can’t opt out of a $25 million settlement and bring her own lawsuit, a move that would derail the entire settlement, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The lawyer, Sherri Simpson, missed the deadline to opt out, according to Tuesday’s decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court rejected Simpson’s claim that due process requires that she get a second chance to opt out and upheld the settlement.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel approved the settlement last March in two class action lawsuits filed in California and a separate suit filed by the state of New York. The settlement gives class members 80 to 90 percent of what they paid for the real estate seminars and mentorships.
Plaintiffs would have faced significant hurdles if they proceeded to trial, including the difficulty of prevailing against Donald Trump as president-elect or president, the appeals court said. “Weighed against this was the fairness of the settlement as a whole, which the court estimated would provide class members with almost a full recovery. Under these challenging circumstances, the district court acted well within its discretion by approving the settlement,” the court said.
The suits had alleged the real estate course touted expert advice by Trump’s hand-picked professionals, but the courses delivered nothing more than generic advice. The typical cost was $1,500 for a three-day course and $35,000 for the “Gold Elite” program.
The president criticized Curiel during the campaign as a judge who was “very hostile” and “a hater of Donald Trump.” Trump also said he thought Curiel was Mexican, although the judge was born in Indiana.
Trump had implied Curiel couldn’t be impartial because of his plans to build a wall along the southern border. Curiel is the judge in a case challenging the waiver of environmental laws that would allow for the wall, report McClatchy and the Huffington Post.