Trump on university lawsuit: ‘Judge’s Mexican heritage is conflict of interest’

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Real estate mogul Donald Trump (R) speaks as university president Michael Sexton (L) looks on during a news conference announcing the establishment of Trump University May 23, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called into question the impartiality of a San Diego federal judge presiding over civil lawsuits stemming from now-closed Trump University real estate school on the grounds his Mexican heritage created a conflict of interest.

Trump, in a San Diego speech last month, said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel should recuse himself and called the judge a “hater” nominated by President Barack Obama. In his latest attack on Curiel, Trump said the judge, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants, had an “absolute conflict” regarding the case because he is “of Mexican heritage” and was involved with a Latino lawyers’ association, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Trump told the Journal, referring to the wall he says he wants to erect between the U.S. and Mexican border..

University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephen Burbank told the Wall Street Journal it was “absolute nonsense.”

“If this continues, I would hope that some prominent federal judges would set Mr. Trump straight on what’s appropriate and what’s not in our democracy,” he told the newspaper.

A nationwide class-action lawsuit and a California class-action suit accuse Trump University of engaging in deceptive practices and scamming thousands of students who enrolled, thinking it would make them rich in the real estate market. Students at shuttered real estate school paid as much as $35,000 to attend, according to documents in the class-action suit unsealed by Curiel at the behest of the Washington Post.

The lawsuits allege that Trump University falsely gave the impression that it was an accredited university, that students would be taught by experts selected by Trump, and that students would get a year of mentoring. Trump’s lawyers argued that many students gave the real estate program positive ratings and those who failed to succeed are themselves to blame.

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