A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday sent a case accusing President Donald Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution back to the lower court.
In its order, the appeals court rejected the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Democratic lawmakers. However, the court also found that Judge Emmet Sullivan had erred by not allowing the department to immediately appeal his prior rulings.
The question of whether the Foreign Emoluments Clause … or other authority gives rise to a cause of action against the President is unsettled, and the standing question arises at the intersection of precedent. … In addition, because either of those issues could be dispositive of this case, it appears to this court that the district court abused its discretion by concluding that an immediate appeal would not advance the ultimate termination of the litigation just because discovery and summary judgment briefing could proceed expeditiously. The district court did not adequately address whether—given the separation of powers issues present in a lawsuit brought by members of the Legislative Branch against the President of the United States—resolving the legal questions and/or postponing discovery would be preferable, or whether discovery is even necessary (or more limited discovery would suffice) to establish whether there is an entitlement to declaratory and injunctive relief of the type sought by plaintiffs.
The case was remanded to Sullivan, who halted discovery in the case to consider whether to issue new orders allowing the government to appeal.
In a separate case, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled for Trump earlier this month when it reversed and remanded a district court’s decision that had previously instructed discovery for potential Emoluments Clause violations.