The $25-million Trump University lawsuit settlement announced Friday came 10 days before a trial was to start and slightly more than a week after U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller stepped into the case as a mediator.
Miller was asked by fellow federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel on Nov. 10 to try to broker a settlement in the high-profile San Diego class-action suit involving thousands of plaintiffs. with President-elect Donald Trump as the main defendant.
Miller is a veteran jurist who spent years on the state Superior Court bench in San Diego and is widely respected in the state and federal courts. He went on senior status in 2010 — meaning he is an active federal judge but with a reduced caseload.
Lawyers on both sides praised Miller’s role, without going into detail, as did Curiel during a hearing Friday when they discussed the settlement that canceled the looming Nov. 28 trial.
“He showed a very steady hand,” said Jason Forge, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
Miller, 72, was appointed to the federal bench in 1997 by President Clinton. He had been a San Diego Superior Court judge for a decade, appointed by Republican Gov. George Deukmejian.
On the federal bench he has presided over several high-profile cases:
--The “Strippergate” corruption case against then-San Diego City Councilmen Ralph Inzunza and Michael Zucchet and Las Vegas lobbyist Lance Malone. The trial centered on political campaign contributions from strip club owners. The jury convicted Zucchet, but Miller took the unusual step of acquitting him of most of the charges, concluding there was not enough evidence to support the guilty verdicts. The ruling stood up on appeal. Inzunza went to prison.
--A 2013 terrorism case in which four Somali immigrants, including three from San Diego, were convicted of sending $8,500 in cash to the terrorist group Shabab. It’s the only known case in which information from the National Security Agency‘s massive surveillance program of U.S. telephone traffic has been used. Miller sentenced the men to prison, but his rulings in the case about the surveillance program are being appealed.
--A 2012 wrongful death lawsuit involving the crash of a Marine jet in a San Diego neighborhood that killed four family members in their home. Miller presided over the non-jury trial. The F/A-18D Hornet crashed into a house in University City, killing four people. Miller awarded the survivors of those killed $17.8 million.
Moran writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Union-Tribune staff writer Kristina Davis contributed to this report.