The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday dismissed the emoluments cases filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia against President Donald Trump. I have long been critical of the filings as advancing largely undefined and unwieldy interpretations of emoluments. The Fourth Circuit made fast work of the filings and reversed the lower court for embracing attenuated and unsupported theories of standing. Other judges correctly dismissed these claims in the past.
The challenges were filed a couple years ago by law professors and advocacy groups. Previous filings were made by CREW’s board chair and vice-chair Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, Constitutional law scholars Erwin Chemerinsky, Laurence H. Tribe and Zephyr Teachout, and Deepak Gupta of Gupta Wessler PLLC.
Eisen was later hired by the House Democrats to help direct its investigations against Trump.
Judge Paul Niemeyer declared these theories as speculative and “simply too attenuated” to satisfy constitutional analysis. He noted that many people, including diplomats, likely avoid the hotel due to its association and it is not clear what the injunction would do for a hotel bearing the President’s name: “the Hotel would still be publicly associated with the President, would still bear his name, and would still financially benefit members of his family.”
The decision is a stinging rejection of the opinion of District Court Judge Peter Messitte.
The court found no standing of these states to bring such an action:
“The District and Maryland’s 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. In any event, for the reasons given, we grant the President’s petition for a writ of mandamus and, taking jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), hold that the District and Maryland do not have Article III standing to pursue their claims against the President. Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s orders denying the President’s motion to dismiss filed in his official capacity, and, in light of our related decision in No. 18-2488, we remand with instructions that the court dismiss the District and Maryland’s complaint with prejudice.”
The Fourth Circuit added: “To allow such a suit to go forward in the district court without a resolution of the controlling issues by a court of appeals could result in an unnecessary intrusion into the duties and affairs of a sitting President.”
Here is the opinion: Emoluments decision