October 6, 2019
The Washington Post
Letter to the Editor
Re: David A. Fahrenthold, Ann E. Marimow & Robert Barnes, Justice Department helps Trump fight financial probes, The Washington Post, Oct. 5, 2019, Sect. A, page 5.
Dear Letters Editor,
Your October 6, 2019 article took the position that “federal [government] lawyers have defended” Trump in the three Emoluments Clauses cases. That’s not quite right.
In two of these lawsuits, plaintiffs chose to sue the President exclusively in his official capacity, not in his individual capacity. Such an official-capacity only lawsuit is, in reality, a lawsuit against the government of the United States. In other words, in both of these lawsuits, the President is only a nominal defendant. Where, as here, the government is the actual defendant, Department of Justice attorneys act for the government-defendant. In these two lawsuits, President Trump’s personal attorneys cannot defend the President—for the simple reason that Donald J. Trump, the individual, is not being sued. It is that simple.
In the third lawsuit, plaintiffs initially sued the President exclusively in his official capacity, but later they amended their complaint to also sue the President in his individual capacity. Subsequently, plaintiffs sought to unilaterally and voluntarily dismiss their individual-capacity claim against the President. The President’s personal attorney objected to any such dismissal: he wanted his day in court.
Plaintiffs would much rather litigate against the DOJ—an organization which is wholly unconcerned with the President’s personal and political reputation—a reputation which takes a pounding each and every time the DOJ loses a motion, trial, or appeal even though President is not really the defendant and has no personal day-to-day control over the DOJ and the government-defendant’s legal strategy (as he would have if he were the actual defendant).
Seth Barrett Tillman, Lecturer
Maynooth University Department of Law, Ireland
Tillman, a U.S. national, has filed multiple amicus briefs in the course of the three Emoluments Clauses cases.
Seth Barrett Tillman, Why the DOJ Acts for the Defendant in the Emoluments Clauses Cases, New Reform Club (Oct. 9, 2019, 4:36 PM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2019/10/why-doj-acts-for-defendant-in.html>.