The Supreme Court of the United States (Scotus) made a decision on 26 June 2023 to dismiss a case involving limits on lawsuits filed by members of Congress against the federal government.

The case, which centred around the former Trump International Hotel in Washington, was brought by Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee. The court’s action followed the lawmakers’ voluntary withdrawal of the case in a federal district court earlier this month.

Appeals court ruling overturned

The Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a federal appeals court that had allowed the lawsuit to continue.

This decision was in line with the request made by the Biden Justice Department, which expressed concerns about the potential flood of lawsuits from individual members of Congress against the administration if the appeals court ruling was upheld.

The lawmakers filed the complaint in 2017 after the Trump administration refused to provide information regarding the Trump Organisation’s lease of the hotel.

The Trump family no longer owns the hotel, which has been converted into a Waldorf Astoria. Most of the information sought by the lawmakers has now been provided, with only internal legal opinions remaining at issue.

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Implications for future lawsuits

The Supreme Court’s intervention was prompted by the Biden administration’s urging to remove the appellate ruling, which could potentially encourage individual lawmakers to sue the current administration or future ones.

Members of Congress do not usually have the right to sue the administration in federal court as individuals or in small groups when their demands for information are not met.

However, a 95-year-old law allows a certain number of members from the House Oversight Committee or the Senate Committee to request and receive specific information from federal agencies. While negotiations have historically resolved most disputes, the question of how to enforce the law in cases where compromise fails remains unresolved.

Prior to this case, lawmakers had only sued twice under this law, with no significant legal rulings resulting from those cases.