My question on Politics.SE around the recent DC Appeals Court dismissal of emoluments charges against the president on procedural grounds brought on a discussion better suited to here:

If an emoluments violation is an 'institutional' wrong that must be addressed by institutions, does an emoluments case continue after the violator leaves office? It doesn't seem like the same sort of case when a victim of police abuse sues the department, not the individual, but IANAL.

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    In this case it is the individual who is violating the constitution, not the office of the president. Feb 14, 2020 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


It depends upon the relief sought.

If the relief sought is an injunction seeking to prevent the violator from continuing to engage in an emolument generating activity going forward, it would be moot and dismissed when the violator left office.

If the relief sought is, for example, an award of money damages related to emoluments already received by the violator, providing personal benefit from a public office, then that lawsuit would not be moot when the violator left office and the lawsuit would not be dismissed.

Also, to be clear, the recent ruling found that members of Congress did not have standing to enforce a violation of the emolument's clause, not that no one did, because the members of Congress suffered no cognizable injury to a legally protected interest of their own. This does not necessarily mean that no one else suffered such an injury.


The appeals court decision only stated that the members of congress suing the President didn't have standing as individual members of congress because "Only an institution can assert an institutional injury". It didn't say that violating the Emoluments Clause was institutional wrong that must be addressed by institutions, it said that a claim that an institution was injured (in this case, Congress) can only be made by the injured institution, not individual members of that institution. It also didn't say that defendant was or must be an institution.

However, the suit was filed against "Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States" and sought declaratory and injunctive relief against him. Once he leaves office a similar case brought by Congress as an institution may become moot because injunctive relief is no longer possible, and a declaratory judgement would no longer serve any purpose.

Conceivably things might be different if valid monetary damages were somehow claimed by some party with standing, since the injured party would presumably still be injured after the President left office. Also note that this isn't a criminal case, there are no "emoluments charges". Only federal prosecutors have standing to charge people with federal crimes in the US, and violating the Emoluments Clause of the constitution isn't a crime in and of itself.

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