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Case Name Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) v. Trump PR-NY-0002
Docket / Court 1:17-cv-00458 ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Presidential Authority
Case Summary
On January 23, 2017, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington - CREW filed a complaint against Donald J. Trump, as the President of the United States, arguing that he had violated Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution, the “Foreign Emoluments Clause,” and Article II, ... read more >
On January 23, 2017, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington - CREW filed a complaint against Donald J. Trump, as the President of the United States, arguing that he had violated Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution, the “Foreign Emoluments Clause,” and Article II, Section 1, Clause 7 of the Constitution, the “Domestic Emoluments Clause”.

According to the complaint, since Donald Trump has refused to step away from his businesses after becoming the President of the United States, he has been receiving benefits from the U.S. government and foreign countries, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals in the country and abroad. The Plaintiff alleged that Trump's companies' acceptance of these benefits, while he was President, violated the Constitution and created doubted about whose interests he would be actually protecting while negotiating with the same countries from which his companies received money. The Plaintiff requested the granting of (i) a declaratory judgment, stating the conduct mentioned by the Plaintiff violated the Emoluments Clauses; and (ii) injunctive relief, to stop and prevent the cited constitutional violations.

The complaint was later amended to include as Plaintiffs (i) a nonprofit organization engaged in the protection of workers in the restaurant market and in managing its own restaurant; (ii) an individual who worked in the hotel market and whose compensation was tied to a percentage of the revenue of the events she booked for foreign governments in hotels; and (iii) the owner of several hotels, restaurants, bars and event spaces in New York, which attract foreign government clients, as well as U.S. government officials.

On June 9, 2017, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss. The Defendant argued the Court did not have jurisdiction over the claims because the Plaintiffs had failed to establish an injury in fact. The motion also asserted that the alleged injuries did not fall within the zone of interests of the Emoluments Clauses, because they served to protect against corruption and foreign influence on federal officials, ensuring the independence of the President. In other words, the Emoluments Clauses would only apply to the receipt of compensation for personal services and to the receipt of honors and gifts based on official position. Therefore, they would not prohibit any company in which the President had some financial interest from doing business with any foreign, federal, or state instrumentality. Finally, the Defendant stated that an injunction against the President in his official capacity would be an unconstitutional relief, according to previous cases decided by Federal Courts and by the Supreme Court.

Judge George B. Daniels granted the motion to dismiss on December 21, 2017. The order to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint was primarily based on the decision that the Plaintiffs had failed to properly allege that Defendant's actions caused them injury. Regarding the injury alleged by the Plaintiffs with ties to the hotel and restaurant industry, the order stated the Defendant was already wealthy and famous before becoming President, and that it was natural that interest in his properties would generally increase after he was elected. The court also held that these Plaintiffs' alleged injury did not fall within the zone of interests of the Emoluments Clause, which was not designed to protect businesses from competition. Regarding CREW, the order said it did not allege either that Defendant's actions had created obstacles for it to perform its mission-related activities, nor that it was forced to expend resources to counteract and remedy any adverse consequences or harmful effects arising from Defendant's conduct. The order also concluded that the question of whether Defendant could continue to receive income from his business with foreign governments without the consent of the Congress was a non-justiciable political question, and, therefore, constituted an issue committed exclusively to Congress.

On February 16, 2018, the Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal (Second Circuit, Docket 18-474). In their brief, filed on April 24, 2018, they argued that the Defendant's acceptance of emoluments had tilted the marketplace and skewed the incentives of its participants, disadvantaging and, thus, injuring the Plaintiffs, who competed with Trump's hotels and restaurants for governmental business. The Plaintiffs reasoned that the Emoluments Clauses sought to achieve goals of preventing corruption, tempering foreign influence and respecting federalism, and thereby to protect individuals from the personal harms that result from a violation of these constitutional principles. Therefore, they argued that the complaint fall within the Emoluments Clauses' zone of interest because the interests asserted by the Plaintiffs would be directly tied to these concerns. The Plaintiffs also addressed the argument that the question at stake was not political. First, because the Domestic Emoluments Clause did not include any provision about a possible congressional consent. Second, under the reason that the Foreign Emoluments Clause made it clear that without congressional consent, it was illegal for certain federal officers to accept any foreign emoluments. Besides, the Plaintiffs argued that, if the Foreign Emoluments Clause could be enforced only by the Congress, as the dismissal order stated, it would make little sense - in that case, legislators would not need to “consent” to an official’s receipt of foreign emoluments in order to validate them. Hence, the Plaintiffs asserted that so long as Congress remained silent, the President was breaking the law by accepting emoluments, and injured parties must be able to seek redress in federal court.

The Defendant filed his brief on May 29, 2018, emphasizing the arguments used by the order to dismiss.

Currently, the parties are waiting for the appeal to be decided.

Daniele de Oliveira Nunes - 10/05/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Emoluments Clauses
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Defendant(s) Donald J. Trump in his official capacity as President of the United States
Plaintiff Description (i) Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington - CREW; (ii) a nonprofit organization engaged in the protection of workers in the restaurant industry; (iii) an individual who works in the hotel industry and whose compensation is tied to a percentage of the revenue of the events she books for foreign governments in hotels; and (iv) the owner of several hotels and restaurants in New York, which attract foreign government clients.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
1:17-cv-458 (S.D.N.Y.)
PR-NY-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/23/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PR-NY-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 28]
PR-NY-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/10/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 103] (276 F.Supp.3d 174) (S.D.N.Y.)
PR-NY-0002-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/21/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Daniels, George B. (S.D.N.Y.)
PR-NY-0002-0003 | PR-NY-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bloomekatz, Rachel (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Bookbinder, Noah D. (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Braun, Robert Abraham (New York)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Chemerinsky, Erwin (California)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Eisen, Norman L (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Farah, George Fuad (New York)
PR-NY-0002-0002 | PR-NY-0002-9000
Gupta, Deepak (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002 | PR-NY-0002-9000
McPhail, Stuart C. (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Painter, Richard W (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Rappaport, Adam J (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Sellers, Joseph Marc (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0002 | PR-NY-0002-9000
Small, Daniel A. (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0002 | PR-NY-0002-9000
Spurlock, Matthew Douglas (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002 | PR-NY-0002-9000
Taylor, Jonathan Ellis (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002 | PR-NY-0002-9000
Teachout, Zephyr (New York)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Tribe, Laurence (Massachusetts)
PR-NY-0002-0001 | PR-NY-0002-0002
Webber, Christine E. (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Lin, Jean (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Powers, James R (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Shumate, Brett (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Other Lawyers Feit, Gregory Phillip (New York)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Freeman, Emma L. (New York)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Gans, David H. (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Maazel, Ilann M. (New York)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Ray, Robert William (New York)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Singh, Tejinder (District of Columbia)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Walker, Daniel John (Pennsylvania)
PR-NY-0002-9000
Weiss, Andrea Likwornik (New York)
PR-NY-0002-9000

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