Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Trump, No. 18-474 (2d Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Owners and operators of businesses in the hospitality industry appealed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of their complaint, alleging that President Trump violated the Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that they have been and will be injured because foreign and domestic government entities that patronize Washington, D.C. and New York hotels, restaurants, and event spaces patronize Trump establishments in the hope of enriching the President and earning a reward from him through official Presidential action favorable to their governments.
The Second Circuit vacated and held that the district court did not apply the law correctly in finding that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the case, and that plaintiffs satisfied all three prongs of Article III standing. The court held that plaintiffs adequately alleged an injury in fact, their injury was fairly traceable to President Trump, and their injury was redressable by injunctive relief. The court noted that the Fourth Circuit reached the opposite conclusion in a closely analogous case, but found its arguments to be unpersuasive. The court noted that whether a lawsuit has political motivations was irrelevant to the determinative issues.
The court also held that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint on the theory that plaintiffs' injuries fall outside the zone of interests of the Emoluments Clauses. The court held that the zone of interests test does not, as the district court believed, implicate the district court's subject matter jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court's precedents make clear that plaintiffs' injuries were not outside the zone of interests of the Emoluments Clauses. Finally, the court found the district court's prudential considerations unpersuasive, disagreeing with the district court's determination that the case was non-justiciable and not ripe for adjudication. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings.