Elon Musk has urged a federal judge to shift a trial in a shareholder lawsuit out of San Francisco because he says negative local media coverage has biased potential jurors against him.
Instead, in a filing submitted late Friday, Musk’s lawyers argue that the trial should be moved to a federal court in western Texas, which includes the state capital of Austin. Musk relocated his electric car company, Tesla, to Austin in late 2021.
If a move isn’t possible, Musk’s lawyers urged that the trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 17, be postponed until negative publicity around Musk’s purchase of Twitter has died down.
“For the last several months, the local media have saturated this district with biased and negative stories about Mr. Musk,” attorney Alex Spiro wrote in a court filing. Those items have personally blamed Musk for recent layoffs at Twitter, Spiro wrote, and have charged that the job cuts may have even violated laws.
The shareholder lawsuit stems from Musk’s tweets in August 2018 when he said he had sufficient financing to take Tesla private at $420 a share, an announcement that caused heavy volatility in Tesla’s share price.
The shareholders’ attorneys emphasized the last-minute timing of the request, saying, “Musk’s concerns are unfounded and his motion is meritless.”
“The Northern District of California is the proper venue for this lawsuit and where it has been actively litigated for over four years,” attorney Nicholas Porritt wrote in an e-mail.
In a victory for the shareholders last spring, Judge Edward Chen ruled that the tweets were false and reckless.
The filing by Musk’s attorneys also notes that Twitter has laid off about 1,000 residents in the San Francisco area since he purchased the company in late October.
“A substantial portion of the jury pool … is likely to hold a personal and material bias against Mr. Musk as a result of recent layoffs at one of his companies as individual prospective jurors – or their friends and relatives – may have been personally impacted,” the filing said.
Musk has also been criticized by San Francisco’s mayor and other local officials for the job cuts, the filing said.