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Case Name District of Columbia and Maryland v. Trump PR-MD-0001
Docket / Court 8:17-cv-01596-PJM ( D. Md. )
State/Territory Maryland
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection Take Care
Case Summary
On June 12, 2017, the District of Columbia (the District) and the State of Maryland (Maryland) filed this lawsuit in The United States District Court for the State of Maryland. The plaintiffs sued the President of the United States (Donald Trump) under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 2201. The plaintiffs, ... read more >
On June 12, 2017, the District of Columbia (the District) and the State of Maryland (Maryland) filed this lawsuit in The United States District Court for the State of Maryland. The plaintiffs sued the President of the United States (Donald Trump) under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 2201. The plaintiffs, represented by the Maryland and District of Columbia Attorney Generals, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief ordering the defendant to stop violating the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses. The plaintiffs claimed that the president’s continued ownership of private companies and acceptance of foreign gifts violated the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged they were hurt by the president’s ownership of businesses due to a real or perceived notion that the Trump companies should be given special treatment. The plaintiffs further alleged citizens of Maryland and Washington, D.C. were hurt as customers were diverted away from their businesses and towards the president’s in an effort to gain favor. Finally, the plaintiffs alleged that President Trump's violation of the Emoluments Clause especially hurt Maryland, as the state was an original approver of the Constitution and had previously given up a similar clause in its own state declaration (prior to the Constitution).

On September 5, 2017 a third party moved for intervention in the lawsuit and requested preliminary injunctive relief due to personal grievances. The court denied the motion on September 7, 2017 because the grievances had nothing to do with the original suit.

The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on September 29, 2017 arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing, lacked a cause of action against the President under the Emoluments Clause, and failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted under the Emoluments Clauses. The parties continued to file amicus briefs for the next six months. The plaintiffs then submitted an amended complaint on March 12, 2018 to include the President in his individual capacity. On March 28, 2018, District Judge Peter J. Messitte granted in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion as it related to their standing arguments. He deferred a decision on the remaining arguments regarding the meaning of the Emoluments Clause. 291 F. Supp. 3d 725. He held that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged injury for certain relief because it was plausible that the District and Maryland could feel pressured to give the Trump Organization special concessions, such as tax benefits and land grants. In addition, he found the plaintiffs adequately alleged injury because competing hotels owned by the plaintiffs and their citizens could also be injured by foreign officials choosing the Trump International Hotel instead of any direct competitors. However, he granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss claims relating to Maryland’s historical support of the Emoluments Clauses, general declines in tax revenues and any hotels outside of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss in his individual capacity for failure to state a claim due to the unavailability of injunctive relief on May 1, 2018. The defendant argued that the court did not have venue and personal jurisdiction over him in his individual capacity because he had no affiliation with Maryland. Furthermore, the defendant argued that there was no cause of action against a government official in his individual capacity under the Emoluments Clause. Finally, the defendant argued that he had absolute immunity against all court action because absolute immunity bars individual-capacity lawsuits against the President for actions taken upon assumption of office.

Judge Messitte published a second opinion on July 25, 2018 denying the remainder of defendant’s initial motion to dismiss and speaking on the breadth of the Emoluments Clauses. He held that the definition of “emoluments” was broad and covered any non-trivial payment or advantage that the president received from government customers’ use of his hotel. 315 F. Supp. 3d 875.

The defendant filed a motion for an interlocutory appeal and a stay of action pending appeal on August 17, 2018. Judge Messitte denied these motions on November 2, 2018 on the grounds that the defendant had failed to raise any substantive question of law with enough grounds for differences of opinion to justify an appeal. 344 F. Supp. 3d 828. Judge Messitte then ordered that parties meet to plan discovery and issued a scheduling order for discovery on December 3, 2018.

The defendant appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on December 14, 2018 asking for a writ of mandamus to require the circuit court to approve an interlocutory appeal or dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaints outright. The appeal was separated into two cases, one to manage the issues surrounding defendant’s official capacity and one to address the issues surrounding the defendant’s individual capacity, and assigned the docket numbers 18-2488 and 18-2486. The defendant claimed that the failure of the court to dismiss the complaints was a “clear legal error,” and the refusal to certify an interlocutory appeal an abuse of discretion. This appeal also asked for a motion to stay during the appeal. Following the appeal, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the complaints against the defendant in his individual capacity on December 19, 2018.

The Court of Appeals approved the motion to stay during appeal on December 20, 2018, and heard the appeal during its March session. In two separate opinions on July 10, 2019, Circuit Judges Paul V. Niemeyer and A. Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr. and Senior Circuit Judge Dennis Shedd remanded the District Court’s decision and dismissed the case with prejudice on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution. 928 F.3d 360. Under Article III, allegations must show a threat of concrete injury with “particularity.” Because the plaintiffs could not show evidence of customers choosing the President’s hotel over others in order to gain favor, there was no concrete injury and the Court held that the allegations were too general to comply.

On August 26, 2019 the plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing. As of October 2019, this petition remained pending and the case was ongoing.

Maddie McFee - 10/15/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Emoluments Clauses
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) President of the United States
Plaintiff Description District of Columbia and State of Maryland
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None
Filed 06/12/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
8:17-cv-01596 (D. Md.)
PR-MD-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/27/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1 ] (2017 WL 2559732)
PR-MD-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/12/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 95]
PR-MD-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 101] (291 F.Supp.3d 725) (D. Md.)
PR-MD-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/28/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 123] (315 F.Supp.3d 875) (D. Md.)
PR-MD-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 135] (344 F.Supp.3d 828) (D. Md.)
PR-MD-0001-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/02/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 57] (928 F.3d 360)
PR-MD-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/10/2019
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Messitte, Peter Jo (D. Md.) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0003 | PR-MD-0001-0004 | PR-MD-0001-0006 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Niemeyer, Paul Victor (D. Md., Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alikhan, Loren L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Beckerman, Laura C (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Bookbinder, Noah D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0001 | PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Crussiah, Joseph (Maryland) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Eisen, Norman L (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Frosh, Brian E. (Maryland) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0001 | PR-MD-0001-0002
Gupta, Deepak (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Hughes, Patrick (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Litos, Stephanie E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Ludaway, Natalie Olivia (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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McPhail, Stuart C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Racine, Karl A. (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Sellers, Joseph Marc (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Small, Daniel A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Spector, Phillip Michael (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Sullivan, Steven M. (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Taylor, Jonathan Ellis (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Tulin, Leah J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Webber, Christine E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Consovoy, William S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Lin, Jean (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Powers, James R (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Shumate, Brett (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Strawbridge, Patrick (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Berlage, Jan Ingham (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Blackman, Joshua Michael (Texas) show/hide docs
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Freeman, Emma L. (New York) show/hide docs
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Kline, Regina (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Maazel, Ilann M. (New York) show/hide docs
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Maxman, Melissa H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Ray, Robert William (New York) show/hide docs
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Sanford, David W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Severino, Carrie Lynn (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Singh, Tejinder (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Zachariasiewicz, Jean M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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