He’s a little late to the table, frankly, but on the other hand it appears that thousands of people persist in not questioning whether attending “Trump University” would be a good idea, some paying tens of thousands of dollars in hopes of learning the Trumpian secret to real-estate wealth. Acting on behalf of such people, New York AG Eric Schneiderman sued Trump University and Donald Trump in Manhattan Supreme Court last week. He accuses the defendants of deceptive conduct and is seeking $40 million in restitution for consumers.
A class action making similar allegations is already pending, and has been for a couple of years. See, e.g., “Paying $60K to Attend Trump University Was a ‘Big Mistake,’ Plaintiff Now Realizes,” Lowering the Bar (May 7, 2010). As that headline suggests, while I think Trump is a vacuous blowhard I also think that is fairly common knowledge, and if so then reliance on promises about the effect of attending “Trump University” might not be entirely reasonable. Trump, not being entirely reasonable himself, later filed a $100 million counterclaim for defamation.
That case is still pending, it turns out. The plaintiff filed and lost an “anti-SLAPP motion” to strike Trump’s counterclaim, arguing it was really designed to punish her for exercising First Amendment rights (complaining about Trump, that is). The district court denied the motion, but in April a panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed (PDF). Its ruling would make it more likely that the plaintiff can get rid of the counterclaim, but it looks like the full Ninth Circuit may consider the case again, to determine whether the state anti-SLAPP law applies at all in federal court. It will be odd if this ridiculous case ends up making new law, but much odder things have happened.
For his part, Trump says the lawsuit is “politically motivated,” alleging that Schneiderman is only bringing the case because Trump wouldn’t donate to his campaign. One of Trump’s lawyers said that the university—actually now called “The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative” because the state Department of Education won’t let it use the word “university”—does benefit its students, and said it had received overwhelmingly positive evaluations from 11,000 of them. In fact, he said that no fewer than 98 percent of the students had said they were “extremely satisfied.”
That would make Trump University’s approval rating higher than the president of Kazakhstan’s, which I think is an interesting statistic.