We’ll start at the beginning. Curiel is presiding over two separate class-action lawsuits about Trump University. One of them, Low v. Trump University, was filed in April 2010 under the name Markaeff v. Trump University. The other, Cohen v. Trump, was filed in October 2013. (A third case brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2013 is also under way in that state.) Trump is named as a defendant in both cases.
The plaintiffs in Low and Cohen portray Trump University as a basically fraudulent endeavor, one that promised Trump’s secrets to real-estate success but instead dispensed generic advice for tens of thousands of dollars. They’veamassed a collection of evidence and testimony that seems to support their claims. Trump strongly denies the allegations and often cities numerous positive testimonials the seminars received from former customers of Trump University.
In his public remarks, Trump appears to make no distinction between Low andCohen. But there are crucial differences between the two civil class-action lawsuits. The Low plaintiffs sued Trump University and Trump himself under various consumer-protection laws in California, Florida, and New York—a relatively standard class-action lawsuit.
Cohen, on the other hand, targets Trump through a provision of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, more commonly known as the RICO Act—the same statute federal prosecutors use to bring down mob bosses. In essence, Low accuses Trump University of engaging in fraudulent business practices, while Cohen frames Trump University itself as a criminal enterprise with Trump as the orchestrator of a racketeering scheme.