Class-action lawyers backing a $25 million settlement of suits over alleged fraud in the Trump University real estate seminar program are asking a Florida woman be ordered to post a $220,000 bond in order to pursue an appeal over her right to drop out of the deal.
Attorneys who won approval of the settlement from U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in March say Sherri Simpson should have to put up the money to cover the costs of delaying the payments to former students during the protracted time could take for the appeal to be resolved.
The motion seeking the bond is withering in its criticism of Simpson and her legal counsel.
"Simpson’s appeal is delaying Settlement payments to Class Members that they may need to get out of debt, replenish retirement funds, or confidently enter retirement. As the appeal may well take years to resolve, payments will be delayed too long for many Class Members who may declare bankruptcy, lose homes, decline in health to the point where they cannot enjoy the money, or die before it is over," plaintiffs’ lawyer Rachel Jensen and other attorneys wrote.
"Simpson’s appeal lacks legal or factual merit … and her ill-advised pursuit of her objection on appeal will inflict hundreds of thousands of dollars of unanticipated costs on the Class," Jensen added in the motion, which also threatens to seek legal fees from Simpson and her lawyers after the appeal is concluded.
Under the settlement, former Trump University students are expected to get 80 percent to 90 percent of what they paid — typically about $1,500 for a three-day seminar or $35,000 for an in-depth mentorship program. Trump paid the settlement funds three days before his inauguration in January.
Simpson says she wants to pursue her own lawsuit against the president that could force him to face a civil trial that was averted by the settlement, struck in November on a tentative basis with the involvement of a mediator. She says she lost about $19,000 — the cost of a three-day seminar plus a mentorship she shared with another person. Most involved in the suit paid between $1,500 and $35,000.
Simpson lawyer Gary Friedman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In legal papers and at a court session in March, he argued that Simpson had a legal right to opt out of the settlement after it was proposed. He also said language in a notice released in the case indicated there would be such an option. Curiel rejected those arguments.
Attorneys backing the settlement have asked the 9th Circuit to expedite the appeal, but that court has not yet ruled on the request.