February 4, 2023

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Musk says he can’t get a fair trial in California, and he wants Texas

Washington – Elon Musk has urged a federal judge to shift a shareholder trial out of San Francisco because he says negative media coverage has biased potential jurors against him.

Instead, in a filing filed late Friday — less than two weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin on January 17 — Musk’s lawyers argued that it should be transferred to federal court in the Western District of Texas. That region includes the state capital of Austin, where Musk relocated his electric car company, Tesla, in late 2021.

The shareholder lawsuit stems from Musk’s tweets in August 2018 when he said he had enough funding to acquire Tesla at $420 a share — an announcement that caused wild swings in Tesla’s share price.

In a shareholder victory last spring, Judge Edward Chen ruled Musk’s tweets false and reckless.

If a transfer of the trial isn’t possible, Musk’s lawyers want to delay it until negative publicity has emerged about the billionaire’s purchase of Twitter has faded.

“For the past several months, the local media has saturated this area with biased and negative stories about Mr. Musk,” attorney Alex Spiro wrote in the lawsuit. That news tip blamed Musk personally for Twitter’s recent layoffs, Spiro wrote, and charged that the job cuts may have broken laws.

Attorneys for the shareholders confirmed the timing of the request at the last minute, saying, “Musk’s concerns are unfounded and his motion unfounded.”

“The Northern District of California is the appropriate setting for this lawsuit and has been litigated for more than four years,” Attorney Nicholas Porritt wrote in an email.

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Musk’s lawyer’s report also notes that Twitter has laid off about 1,000 San Francisco-area residents since it bought the company in late October.

“A significant portion of the jury cohort … is likely to hold a personal and material prejudice against Mr. Musk as a result of recent layoffs at one of his companies as individual potential jurors — or their friends and relatives — may have been personally affected,” the filing said.

The report said Musk was criticized by the San Francisco mayor and other local officials for the job cuts.