Trump Loses Three Important Court Appeals in One Day

On Friday, Trump lost court stay requests on the Children’s Climate Change lawsuit, a case alleging political motives in asking a citizenship question on the 2020 census, and claims Trump violated the Constitution in accepting foreign government payments via his D.C. hotel.

Donald Trump exits the stage after a campaign rally in 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC

November 2 was, as a recent children’s book had it, a “no good, very bad day” for Trump. All three of these cases have now been approved to go forward. Again.

The suit involving the Washington, D.C. Trump International Hotel, located a short distance from the White House, alleges Donald Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by conducting business with foreign governments. Keep in mind that Trump still owns his company and has authority over it. This is not even a blind trust.

In this dispute, the Justice Department, strangely taking the position that they represent Trump and not the government, had requested a stay in that case from U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messite in Greenbelt, Maryland. According to Messite, the Justice Department said that the term emoluments is a subject of “substantial grounds of disagreement” and said the payments Trump received from foreign governments through his business did not qualify as emoluments. The Judge called the Justice Department's argument "a dubious proposition" and denied the stay.

Judge Messite also ordered the the attorneys general for Washington, D.C. and for the state of Maryland, the plaintiffs in the case, to submit a schedule for discovery in the case within the next 20 days.

In a second case decided Friday, the Supreme Court refused to delay a trial claiming the Commerce Secretary had an improper political motive in adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. This suit, filed by several states and civil rights organizations, claimed the question – which requires people to say whether they are legally entitled to be in the country – would have far-reaching political ramifications. In regions with large immigrant populations, individuals might fear reprisals – even if unlawful – and choose not to return the census forms. Since census tallies are used to determine everything from federal aid distributions based on population to representation in Congress, this could cause dangerous and wrongful undercounts of the populations. Considering how Trump himself is stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment even for legal immigrants, it understandable why people might choose not to return a questionnaire with this on the ballot.

When it was revealed the question was added to the census, at least one Census Bureau internal analyst and six former census directors said just having the question would damage the resulting census counts.

The lawsuit alleges the Commerce Secretary added the question for political reasons. The Justice Department does not exactly deny this but said the case should be decided on whether it was legal to add the question, rather than why the question was to be included.

In its just-announced decision, the Supreme Court removed to delay this trial. It is currently scheduled to start on November 5 in New York.

In the third case decided on November 2, the Supreme Court issued an evening ruling saying it will allow “the Children’s Climate Change Lawsuit” to go forward. That case, formally known as Juliana, et. al, vs. United States, et. al., claims the U.S. government violated the due process clause in the U.S. Constitution by actively encouraging increased greenhouse gas emissions and contributing significantly to global warming in the country. It was filed before a Federal Judge in Oregon in 2015 by 21 youths, who say the U.S. government’s leaders have failed to ensure them what they call their constitutional right to a clean environment.

The Supreme Court ruled about this on Friday that “the Government’s petition for a writ of mandamus [a legal procedure demanding the court reconsider the case] does not have a ‘fair prospect’ of success in this court [the Supreme Court] because adequate relief may be available in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit”. The order concluded with the removal of a temporary stay in the case that U.S. Supreme Court granted to the Justice Department on October 19.

On this last case, the Justice Department can attempt to appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit, but it is important to note that it had previously done that earlier – on this same suit and with the same court – and was denied its grant for either a stay or a dismissal of the case.

Not surprisingly, the Justice Department has not said much about any of these cases yet. It is fair to expect there will be attempts to appeal each of them at least one last time.