Elon Musk says he can’t get a fair trial in California in Tesla shareholder case, wants Texas

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WASHINGTON — Elon Musk has urged a federal judge to move a shareholder case trial from San Francisco, saying negative local media coverage biased potential jurors against him.

Instead, in a filing filed late Friday — less than two weeks before the trial was due to begin on Jan. 17 — Musk’s lawyers argue that it should be moved to federal court in the Western District of Texas. That district includes the state capital of Austin, where Musk relocated his electric car company, Tesla TSLA.
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The shareholder lawsuit stems from Musk’s tweets in August 2018 when he said he had enough funding to take Tesla private at $420 per share — an announcement that created major volatility in Tesla’s stock price.

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

If moving the lawsuit is not possible, Musk’s lawyers want it postponed until the negative publicity surrounding the billionaire’s purchase of Twitter has died down.

“In recent months, the local media has infused this district with biased and negative stories about Mr. Musk,” attorney Alex Spiro wrote in a lawsuit. Those news items have personally blamed Musk for recent layoffs at Twitter, Spiro wrote, and have argued that the job cuts may even violate laws.

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Shareholders’ attorneys stressed the timing of the last-minute request, saying, “Musk’s concerns are unfounded and his motion is meritorious.”

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

The filing from Musk’s lawyers also says that Twitter has laid off about 1,000 residents in the San Francisco area since buying the company in late October.

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“A significant portion of the juror pool … is likely to have a personal and material bias against Mr. Musk due to recent layoffs at one of his companies, as individual prospective jurors – or their friends and family members – may have been personally affected,” the statement said. submission.

Musk has also been criticized by the mayor of San Francisco and other local officials for the job cuts, the filing said.