Federal Appeals Court Dismisses Emoluments Lawsuit Challenging Trump’s Profits from DC Hotel

On Wednesday, July 10, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously dismissed a lawsuit that claimed President Trump is violating the so-called Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution by accepting payments from state and foreign governments at his luxury hotel in downtown Washington. Brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, the lawsuit alleged that the type of business transactions with foreign governments was exactly the type anticipated and prohibited by our nation’s founders.

The Fourth Circuit panel dismissed the lawsuit on the basis of standing. Article III standing, or judicial standing, requires that the plaintiff in a lawsuit in federal court establish: (1) that he will suffer “injury in fact” that is concrete and particularized, (2) that the defendant’s action is the cause of the injury, and (3) that a judicial remedy is likely to redress the injury. The district court below denied the President’s motion to dismiss for lack of standing, finding that the plaintiffs suffered three different types of harm as a result of the alleged violation of the Emoluments Clause: their proprietary interests, parens patriae interests, and quasi-sovereign interests.

The Fourth Circuit reversed the lower court, finding that the attorneys general lacked standing because their interest in enforcing the Emoluments Clauses “is so attenuated and abstract that their prosecution of this case readily provokes the question of whether this action against the President is an appropriate use of the courts, which were created to resolve real cases and controversies between the parties.”

The attorneys general reportedly intend to seek a rehearing en banc, which would give a full panel of the Fourth Circuit to decide the issue.

Additional Resources

In re Donald Trump, No. 18-2486 (4th Cir. July 10, 2019) via Justia Law

Appeals court dismisses emoluments lawsuit involving Trump’s D.C. hotel, Washington Post, July 10, 2019

Photo credit: spatuletail / Shutterstock.com