After Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election in November, a then-unconfirmed report suggested the president-elect had agreed to settle the Trump University lawsuit that was levied against him for a whopping $25 million. Considering the many legal headaches that a possible court case (or cases) might cause for the new administration, it seemed Team Trump wanted to do away with the public relations blight as soon as possible. And thanks to Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, that’s precisely what the president gets to do nearly five months later.
According to the New York Times, Judge Curiel — the very same one Trump vilified as a “Mexican judge” who was biased against him — ruled in favor of the proposed $25 million settlement meant to assuage claims of fraud by the nearly 3,730 students who joined together in the lawsuit. Trump University, they claimed, had defrauded them of money, as well as coursework and materials promised them by the supposedly educational institution. As a result, Curiel found the money promised to be “fair”:
“The court finds that the amount offered in settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable, and accordingly concludes that this factor weighs in favor of final approval,” Judge Curiel wrote in a 31-page order approving the agreement, which is subject to appeal.
The settlement’s approval came after the judge briefly considered a challenge from former Trump University student and lawsuit member Sherri Simpson. According to her lawyers, the Florida native wanted the option to pull out of the suit should she desire the chance to sue Trump on her own. Such, noted the NYT, would “perhaps” force a trial.
Simpson told CNN she spent roughly $20,000 on registration, fees and coursework materials for Trump University classes in 2010. According to her attorney, Gary Friedman, Simpson felt her case was strong enough to hold its own against Trump and his failed business venture’s associates. That, and earn back more of her money: “The trial we are seeking is under the RICO statute, damages are tripled. So for every one dollar of loss you are getting an additional three dollars.”
Judge Curiel and Patrick Coughlin, an attorney representing a larger portion of the students participating in the lawsuit, argued Simpson’s objection endangered the case at large. Her desire to sue Trump individually, argued Coughlin, threatened to “blow up a settlement that is returning 90 cents on the dollar. It’s an outrageous position.”