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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). The case was assigned to Judge Peter J. Messitte.

On September 5, 2017, a third party moved for intervention in the lawsuit and requested preliminary injunctive relief due to personal grievances. Two days later, the court denied the motion on its own accord, finding 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, Judge 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.

On May 1, 2018, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss in his individual capacity for failure to state a claim due to the unavailability of injunctive relief. 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 U.S. 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. These were assigned the docket numbers 18-2488 and 18-2486, respectively. 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. Nevertheless, because of the subsequent appeals process, suit of the president in his individual capacity remained a live issue.

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 en banc by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The court agreed to rehear the case, with oral arguments on December 12, 2019. In its two May 14, 2020 opinions on the matter, the Fourth Circuit reversed.

For 18-2488 (suing the president in his official capacity), the Fourth Circuit's 9-6 decision noted that a writ of mandamus, as sought by President Trump after the district court decision, was a drastic remedy available only in extraordinary situations. The court found that this was not such a circumstance. The court also rejected the president’s argument that separation of powers precluded the judiciary from ordering the President to comply with the Emoluments Clause. Instead, the court found that separation of powers cut precisely the other way since “Allowing the President to be the final arbiter of both the interpretation and enforcement of the law . . . would gravely offend separation of powers.” 958 F.3d 274. For 18-2486 (suing the president in his individual capacity), the en banc court was tasked to address the propriety of the district court’s procedure in the case. In another 9-6 decision, the en banc court found that because there was no final judgment yet in the case, it lacked jurisdiction to hear the defendant’s appeal. 959 F.3d 126.

The defendant subsequently appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and requested a stay of the en banc Fourth Circuit decisions until resolution of the appeal. On July 9, 2020, the Fourth Circuit granted a stay of 18-2486, but denied a stay of 18-2488. Though the plaintiffs renewed their notice of voluntary dismissal of their claims against President Trump in his individual capacity on July 17, 2020, the defendant appealed the motion, keeping the issue live.

On January 25, 2021, the Supreme Court dismissed the case as moot, since Donald Trump was no longer President of the United States. Ordered to do so by the Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit and then the district court dismissed the case. The district court closed the case on May 11, 2021.

Maddie McFee - 10/15/2019
Achutha Raman - 11/19/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Emoluments Clauses
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
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 outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 06/12/2017
Case Closing Year 2021
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  DC and Maryland sue President Trump on emoluments
CREW
Date: January 25, 2021
By: CREW
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
D. Md.
05/11/2021
8:17-cv-01596
PR-MD-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Md.
06/12/2017
Complaint [ECF# 1 ] (2017 WL 2559732)
PR-MD-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Md.
03/12/2018
Amended Complaint [ECF# 95]
PR-MD-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Md.
03/28/2018
Opinion [ECF# 101] (291 F.Supp.3d 725)
PR-MD-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Md.
07/25/2018
Opinion [ECF# 123] (315 F.Supp.3d 875)
PR-MD-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Md.
11/02/2018
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 135] (344 F.Supp.3d 828)
PR-MD-0001-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
07/10/2019
[Opinion] [Ct. of App. ECF# 48] (930 F.3d 209)
PR-MD-0001-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
07/10/2019
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 57] (928 F.3d 360)
PR-MD-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
05/14/2020
[Opinion] [Ct. of App. ECF# 83] (959 F.3d 126)
PR-MD-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
05/14/2020
[Opinion] [Ct. of App. ECF# 100] (958 F.3d 274)
PR-MD-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
07/09/2020
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 92] (811 Fed.Appx. 863)
PR-MD-0001-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
07/09/2020
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 111] (811 Fed.Appx. 861)
PR-MD-0001-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Supreme Court
01/25/2021
[Supreme Court Remark]
PR-MD-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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
Motz, Diana Jane Gribbon (Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0007 | PR-MD-0001-0009
Niemeyer, Paul Victor (D. Md., Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0005 | PR-MD-0001-0008
Quattlebaum, A. Marvin Jr. (D.S.C., Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0008
Shedd, Dennis W. (D.S.C., Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0008
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
PR-MD-0001-0001 | PR-MD-0001-0002
Litos, Stephanie E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0001 | PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Ludaway, Natalie Olivia (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0001 | PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Matz, Joshua Adam (New York) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
McPhail, Stuart C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0001 | PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Racine, Karl A. (Maryland) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0001 | PR-MD-0001-0002
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
PR-MD-0001-9000
Spector, Phillip Michael (Maryland) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Sullivan, Steven M. (Maryland) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0001 | PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Taylor, Jonathan Ellis (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Tulin, Leah J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Webber, Christine E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-0002 | PR-MD-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Consovoy, William S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Lin, Jean (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Powers, James R (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Shumate, Brett (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Strawbridge, Patrick (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Berlage, Jan Ingham (Maryland) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Blackman, Joshua Michael (Texas) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Freeman, Emma L. (New York) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Kline, Regina (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Maazel, Ilann M. (New York) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Maxman, Melissa H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Ray, Robert William (New York) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Sanford, David W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Severino, Carrie Lynn (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000
Singh, Tejinder (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Zachariasiewicz, Jean M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-MD-0001-9000

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