Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C./Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C./Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

A Maryland federal judge has denied a request by President Donald Trump to stay litigation pending appeal in a so-called emoluments lawsuit, which alleges he is violating the Constitution by maintaining ownership in the Trump International Hotel in Washington while in office

The decision came Friday in District of Columbia and State of Maryland v. Trump.


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Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte green-lighted the suit, brought against Trump by the Maryland and Washington, D.C., attorneys general, ruling they had standing to sue the president over his undisputed ownership in the hotel.

Messitte also previously ruled that the attorneys general had alleged plausible causes of action against Trump because his apparent receipt of benefits from foreign and state government officials who were guests at his hotel suggested he has received emoluments in violation of the Constitution.

Trump later filed a motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and asked Messitte to stay any and all discovery in the case pending his appeal—motions the plaintiffs opposed.

There is little case law on the emoluments clauses as they have rarely been used in litigation. The attorneys general contended that governments such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have spent thousands of dollars at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel to curry favor with the president. That alleged practice has diverted business from other Washington, D.C., hotels, according to the attorneys general, who also said state governments, such as Maine’s, have patronized the hotel, which has also sought to market itself specifically to diplomats.

Trump’s lawyers argued that Messitte’s recent decisions in the lawsuit should be certified for interlocutory appeal because they present issues of first impression: that a sitting president who is accused of violating the Constitution faces the prospect of civil discovery that is too burdensome and distracting.

But Messitte rejected that argument in his ruling Friday.

“The President had not satisfied the several criteria for certification of the issues that concern him,” Messitte wrote.

“It bears noting that the President himself appears to have had little reluctance to pursue personal litigation despite the supposed distractions it imposes upon his office,” Messitte wrote, noting Trump has threatened to sue several parties over alleged defamatory statements made about him.

Messitte also declined to issue a stay in the litigation, noting that Trump could potentially delay litigation for years if his request were granted.

“The President has failed to identify a controlling question of law decided by this court as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion justifying appellate review that would materially advance the ultimate termination of the case or even the material narrowing of issues,” Messitte concluded in the decision.

“Nor is a stay warranted, even if the court were to certify one or more of the President’s proposed issues. Judicial economy would not be serviced, no hardship or equitable justification would result if the case were to go forward, and any inconvenience to the President if the proceeding is not stayed would not outweigh the prejudice that a delay would inflict on plaintiffs and their constituents.”

A representative for the U.S. Department of Justice, which represents Trump in the litigation, did not immediately return a call for comment. Natalie O. Ludaway with the D.C. Attorney General’s Office and Steven M Sullivan with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office also did not return calls for comment.