August 15 has been set as the first possible day for the federal trial, in which members of the former Ritz-Carlton Golf Club say that Trump breached their contract and refused to return their money when he bought the club for $5 million in 2012.
Trump National Golf Club Jupiter (Fla.) will face a federal judge in a high-profile case set for August, setting the stage for the Republican presidential nominee to possibly take the witness stand just as the general election battle starts in earnest, the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post reported.
Late last month, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra set August 15 as the first possible day for trial in a case involving aggrieved members of the former Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Jupiter. In a lawsuit, club members say Trump breached their contract and refused to return their money when he bought the club for $5 million in 2012, the Post reported.
The golf club lawsuit is another high-profile federal case involving Trump or one of his companies, though not as closely watched as the legal wrangling over Trump University. Attorneys representing roughly 60 members of the club, now known as Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, have said at least $6 million is at stake, the Post reported.
The trial also presents a potential campaign distraction for the GOP nominee, who recently called out a different federal judge over his ethnicity. Trump has said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel has unfairly ruled against him in a case alleging fraud at the now-defunct Trump University because the judge is of Mexican descent. That trial is set for November 28 in California, the Post reported.
But the case involving Trump National is on track to be heard this summer, just as the campaign heats up for the final push to Election Day. And it’s likely Trump and possibly his son, Eric, who heads Trump’s golf operations, will be called as witnesses, the Post reported.
The federal lawsuit was filed by three former Ritz club members against Trump National in 2013, saying a Trump entity wrongly canceled their memberships when it bought the club and refused to return their deposits within 30 days, as required. Membership deposits ranged from $41,000 to $117,000, according to court records.
“The timing [for a trial date] is incredible,” said Boca Raton lawyer Howard DuBosar. “There will be national coverage.” West Palm Beach lawyer Gregory Coleman had a more colorful description of the upcoming trial: “a circus.”
Trump lawyer Herman Russomano III said there’s not yet a witness list, and he wouldn’t comment on whether Trump could be a witness. A lawyer for the former Ritz club members didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. Russomano said an August 5 hearing will determine exactly what date the trial will be held, the Post reported.
Donald Trump sent a December 17, 2013, letter to club members that is a key piece of evidence in the case. In that letter, Trump said Ritz members could “opt in” to his new club, in exchange for agreeing their memberships were nonrefundable. If members weren’t interested in opting in, and they remained on a club resignation list, Trump said he didn’t want them anyway, the Post reported.
“You’re probably not going to be a very good club member…you’re out,” Trump wrote in the letter. “As the owner of the club, I do not want them to utilize the club nor do I want their dues.”
Marra has yet to rule on a request by Trump to throw out the lawsuit, the Post reported.