Individual Members of Congress Barred from Suing President Trump Over Business Dealings

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Professor Jed Shugerman and alumnus Rep. Jerrold Nadler ’78 were quoted in a Washington Post article covering the decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit against a lawsuit, filed by over 200 Democrats in Congress, that would enforce the Constitution’s emoluments provisions.

Individual members of Congress cannot sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled Friday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Democrats in Congress seeking to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who led efforts to bring the lawsuit, said in a joint statement that the ruling was not a decision on the merits and lawmakers will continue to review their options.

“While I am disappointed in the outcome of today’s decision, a technical dismissal in no way condones President Trump’s continuing violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution,” Nadler said in the statement.

But Fordham University law professor Jed Shugerman, who assisted the plaintiffs, said Democrats could still boost their case by adding to the lawsuit the names of lawmakers who have joined the House since it was filed in 2017.

“It seems to have been a blind spot of the organizers not to make that effort,” he said. Ultimately, however, he said he found the judges’ decision “extremely disappointing,” largely because they appeared to argue that the Constitution was not likely to effectively rein in corruption.

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