‘Litigator-in-chief’: Trump and his litany of lawsuits

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By Polly Botsford on

Will he be the first ever US president to give evidence in open court?

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While the world comes to terms with a Trumptopian future, lawyers may be interested in Trump’s courtship with the courts.

The American daily, USA Today, has found over 4,000 local, state and federal court cases where Donald Trump or one of his five hundred or so companies are or have been involved either as plaintiff or defendant.

The newspaper tracked branding cases, contract cases, unpaid taxes investigations, real estate and defamation disputes. Over half the cases are debt claims linked to his casinos.

But there are also around 75 LIVE legal cases, according to the six-month-long investigation, and they will proceed regardless of Trump’s imminent presidency.

This means that he may have to give evidence in an open court case once he is president — believed to be a first if it happens. Former Pres. Bill Clinton gave evidence before a grand jury over the Monica Lewinsky debacle but grand jury trials are private proceedings behind closed doors.

Trump cannot avoid open court by relying on presidential immunity as a result of a US Supreme Court case from 1997, Clinton v Jones, which, again, involved President Clinton and accusations of sexual harassment by Paula Jones. Clinton argued immunity; the judges didn’t agree.

Of the 75 cases, including real estate disputes and employment cases, there are two separate class actions involving Trump University when he allegedly:

…failed to deliver on [his] real estate secrets at his “university” Live Events, or provide the mentoring promised, in violation of state consumer protection… [and] false advertising.

The list of cases won’t include a potential rape case which was brought earlier this year against Trump but was dropped four days before the election last week. (The would-be plaintiff cited death threats as the reason for her voluntary withdrawal from the action.)

So is this deluge of depositions that surprising? Some would argue this is business-as-usual for a “successful” entrepeneur in litigation-heavy USA. If you take the branding and trademark cases, for instance, Trump has been involved in 85, according to USA Today, in his bid to protect the Trump brand. But Apple Inc was cited in over 350 patent and trademark cases in one two-year period attempting to protect the Apple brand.

There are not that many political figures in the dock TO THIS EXTENT, however. Political leaders can be involved in court action but it tends to be related to policy: current president, Obama, was sued by members of the House of Representatives over Obamacare and Angela Merkel is in the dock for her migration policy.

Trump’s litigation pot pourri is perhaps more akin to the French presidential candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is being investigated for allegedly bribing a judge.

Certainly, it is fitting for the self-proclaimed “law and order” candidate.