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Court Orders Trump University Playbooks Unsealed

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 31, 2016 4:15 PM

Donald Trump spent the last few weeks touring the country, securing the Republican presidential nomination, and announcing his potential Supreme Court picks. But in court, Trump still faces accusations that his Trump University misled and defrauded students.

Now, the methods Trump University used to sell itself to students are likely to get a bit more publicity. On Friday, a judge in the Southern District of California ordered the release of Trump University "playbooks," internal guides for sales personnel on how to market the now defunct, non-accredited "university."

Opening Up the Playbook

Friday's ruling comes after the Washington Post moved to intervene in the Trump University class action, solely for the purpose of unsealing exhibits. And while Trump University and the former student plaintiffs agreed that most of the exhibits could be released, Trump University argued that four "playbooks" should remain sealed, in order to protect the company's trade secrets.

Applying the Ninth Circuit's recent opinion in Center for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Group, Judge Gonzalo Curiel held that there were "compelling reasons" to release the documents. First, the 2010 Playbook has already been published by Politico, denying it was protection as a trade secret. Second, the other claimed trade secrets were "largely duplicative of that found in the 2010 Playbook."

Finally, there is a strong "public interest in understanding the judicial process" in this particularly noteworthy case. Trump has become, the court noted, a leading presidential candidate, who has spoken out repeatedly against the lawsuit. Through such comments, he "has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue."

Trump Slams Judge

The judge's order came the same day that Trump was decrying him at a rally. Trump had previously wondered whether Curiel's Hispanic background would make him biased against Trump, given the candidate's call for a wall on the country's southern border and claims that Mexican immigrants were rapists and murders.

At a rally in San Diego, Trump said that Curiel "happens to be, we believe, Mexican." (Curiel is indeed Mexican, having been born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents.) "I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself. I think it's a disgrace that he is doing this," Trump said.

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