Washington — WASHINGTON (AP) — Elon Musk has urged a federal judge to move the trial of a shareholder lawsuit out of San Francisco because he says negative local media coverage has biased potential jurors against him.
Instead, in a filing filed late Friday — less than two weeks before the Jan. 17 trial — Musk’s lawyers argue that the case should be moved to federal court in the Western District of Texas. That district includes the state capital of Austin, where Musk will relocate his electric car company Tesla in late 2021.
The shareholder lawsuit stems from tweets Musk made in August 2018 when he said he had enough financing to take Tesla to $420 a share — an announcement that sent Tesla’s stock price wildly volatile.
In a win for shareholders last spring, Judge Edward Chen ruled that Musk’s tweets were false and reckless.
If it’s not possible to move the trial, Musk’s lawyers want it postponed until after the negative publicity surrounding the billionaire’s purchase. Twitter is dead
“Over the past several months, the local media has been saturated in this district with biased and negative stories about Mr. Musk,” attorney Alex Spiro wrote in a court filing. Those messages took Twitter to personally blame Musk for the recent layoffs, Spiro wrote, and alleged that the job cuts may have violated laws.
Attorneys for the shareholders emphasized the last-minute timing of the request, saying “Musk’s concerns are unfounded and his motion without merit.”
“The Northern District of California is the proper venue for this case and has been vigorously litigated for more than four years,” attorney Nicholas Porritt wrote in an email.
According to a filing by Musk’s lawyers, Twitter has laid off about 1,000 residents in the San Francisco area since he bought the company in late October.
“A substantial portion of the jury panel … is likely to have personal and material bias against Mr. Musk as a result of the recent dismissal of individual prospective jurors — or their friends and relatives — as individual prospective jurors at one of his firms. The impact,” the filing said.
Musk has been criticized by San Francisco’s mayor and other local officials for the job cuts.