A judge urged the ousted founder of the Minuteman Project to resolve his power struggle with the anti-illegal immigration group's board of directors out of court, but he indicated he would issue a ruling if necessary.

Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist sued the group's board of directors for control of the organization after he was fired and accused of embezzling $400,000 in donations, an allegation he denies.

He was in court Wednesday seeking to regain control of the project.

Judge Randell L. Wilkinson suggested that Gilchrist work out his disagreements with board members through mutually trusted intermediaries. If that wasn't possible, the judge indicated he would rule on whether control should be returned to Gilchrist until a trial can be held on whether the board was justified in removing him.

Gilchrist called the differences "irreconcilable." He said he could not be an ally of people who have filed complaints against him with the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.

The three directors he is suing said they tried unsuccessfully to get Gilchrist to address their concerns in December.

"I pleaded with him," said one director, Barbara Coe, founder of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform.

They said they were still open to discussions.

Gilchrist, of Aliso Viejo, began making national headlines in April 2005, when he and other activists upset at what they perceived as a lack of action on the part of Congress began patrolling the Mexican border in Arizona using cars, trucks, private planes and night-vision goggles. The effort drew criticism, including from President Bush, who called participants "vigilantes."

The Minuteman Project struck a nerve, however. It has about 200 spin-off groups around the U.S.