United States District Court, District of Columbia
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, Plaintiff,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, et al., Defendants, DONALD J. TRUMP, et al., Defendant-Intervenors.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives
(the “Committee”) sued the Treasury, the Internal
Revenue Service, and their agency heads (collectively, the
“Administration”) to compel their production of
the federal income tax returns and related IRS administrative
files of President Donald J. Trump and eight Trump
Organization entities (collectively, “President
Trump”). President Trump intervened. Now the Committee
moves for summary judgment and to expedite consideration of
this case. The Administration and President Trump oppose the
Committee's Motion to Expedite, and they propose that the
Court hold the Committee's Motion for Summary Judgment in
abeyance while it considers threshold jurisdictional
questions that they will raise in their forthcoming Motion(s)
to Dismiss. For the reasons below, the Court denies the
Motion to Expedite, denies without prejudice the Motion for
Summary Judgment as premature, and denies the Motion to Hold
the Motion for Summary Judgment in Abeyance as moot.
Committee asserts that “[t]ime is of the essence”
to obtain President Trump's tax information and that the
typical staged approach to litigation “would
unjustifiably delay resolution of this case.” Mot. to
Expedite at 2-3, ECF No. 30. So the Committee asks the Court
to proceed immediately to summary judgment and consolidate
briefing on the jurisdictional questions with the merits of
the Committee's claims. See Id. at 2-4. That
way, according to the Committee, the Court can resolve this
matter in time for the current Congress to legislate on
related matters before the House disbands sixteen months from
now. Id. at 3.
Committee's request comes seven weeks after it first
filed the Complaint. The Court does not fault the Committee
for its time and efforts negotiating with the Administration
before suing, but it is not clear why only now the Committee
asks for expedited consideration of this matter.
course, most plaintiffs want quick resolutions of their
cases. But Congress, of which the Committee is a part, has
left it to the courts to “determine the order in which
civil actions are heard and determined, ” with only a
narrow set of cases that must skip to the front of the line.
28 U.S.C. § 1657(a). For example, courts “shall
expedite the consideration of any action brought under . . .
[the Recalcitrant Witness Statute]” or “any
action for temporary or preliminary injunctive relief.”
Id. Congress also mandates priority for criminal
cases, see 18 U.S.C. § 3161 et seq.
(the Speedy Trial Act of 1974), and encourages priority for
FOIA cases, see 28 U.S.C. § 1657(a) (specifying
claims under 5 U.S.C. § 552 as an example in which good
cause for expediting may exist), which make up much of this
Court's docket. Congress has authorized no similar
fast-track for cases instituted by itself or its components.
addition to these specified priority cases, courts also
“shall expedite the consideration of any action . . .
if good cause therefor is shown.” 28 U.S.C. §
1657(a). The Committee hangs its hopes on this
catch-all provision. To be sure, this is no ordinary case,
but the weighty constitutional issues and political
ramifications it presents militate in favor of caution and
deliberation, not haste. And the Committee has not shown
Court is “aware that from the legislative viewpoint,
any alternative to outright enforcement of the subpoena
entails delay.” United States v. AT&T Co.,
567 F.2d 121, 133 (D.C. Cir. 1977). But in inter-branch
disputes like this one, “[t]he Separation of Powers
often impairs efficiency, in terms of dispatch and the
immediate functioning of the government.” Id.
Indeed, “[i]t is the long-term staying power of
government that is enhanced by the mutual accommodation
required by the Separation of Powers.” Id.
Such considerations and other factors counsel against rushing
to judgment here.
case presents novel and complex questions about the
privileges and authority of all three branches of the federal
government. “Few ideas are more central to the American
political tradition than the doctrine of separation of
powers.” U.S. House of Representatives v.
Mnuchin, 379 F.Supp.3d 8, 10 (D.D.C. 2019). The
Committee asks the Court to wade into a dispute between the
political branches about disclosing the President's
personal financial information over his objections.
Administration and President Trump suggest that their
forthcoming Motion(s) to Dismiss will raise significant
threshold issues about the Court's authority to resolve
such an inter-branch conflict. See Opp'n to Mot.
to Expedite at 5-9, ECF No. 34. The requirement that a
federal court assure itself of its jurisdiction to hear a
case before proceeding to the merits is “inflexible and
without exception.” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a
Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 95 (1998) (quotation
omitted). Without prejudging the predicate issues the
Defendants intend to raise, they seem unlikely to be so
trivial as to justify a rush to the merits of the case.
Committee suggests that “[c]ourts regularly consider
threshold issues of justiciability on motions for summary
judgment or, at the very least, on consolidated motions to
dismiss and for summary judgment.” Reply in Supp. of
Mot. to Expedite at 10, ECF No. 35 (collecting cases).
Perhaps. But “[d]istrict courts enjoy broad discretion
when deciding case management and scheduling matters.”
See McGehee v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 362
F.Supp.3d 14, 18 (D.D.C. 2019); see also 28 U.S.C.
§ 1657(a). This Court's general practice is to
adhere to the traditional litigation sequence of complaint;
answer or motion to dismiss; discovery, if appropriate; and
only then, summary judgment. This process allows the Court to
assure itself of jurisdiction and address threshold matters
before burdening the parties with the costs of discovery and
briefing on the merits.
as the Committee points out, the Administration and President
Trump raised versions of some of their proposed arguments in
Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, No. 19-5142 (D.C. Cir.
2019) and Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG, No. 19-1540 (2d
Cir. 2019). See Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Expedite
at 7. Those cases are pending before the D.C. Circuit and the
Second Circuit, respectively. That related issues are
percolating in other courts, particularly before the D.C.
Circuit, suggests that a rush to judgment here would be
unwise. Indeed, by first addressing the preliminary
questions, the Court-and the parties-may benefit from
guidance from the Circuit about issues-in-common with the
matters on appeal.
factors also weigh against the Committee's Motion to
Expedite. First, the time for the Administration to respond
to the Committee's Complaint has not passed. The
Committee served its Complaint on the Administration on July
8, 2019. So under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(3),
the Administration has until September 6, 2019 to answer or
respond by motion. “Although [Rule 56] allows a motion
for summary judgment to be filed at the commencement of an
action, in many cases the motion will be premature until the
nonmovant has had time to file a responsive pleading or other
pretrial proceedings have been had.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56
Advisory Committee's Notes (2010 Amendments Subdivision
President Trump suggests that he intends to seek discovery.
See Opp'n to Mot. to Expedite at 12-13
(suggesting that if the Court adopts the Committee's
proposed schedule President Trump will file a motion under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d)). “Because pre-discovery summary
judgment is disfavored, the D.C. Circuit has directed trial
courts to grant Rule 56(d) requests almost as a matter of
course.” SoundExchange, Inc. v. Muzak,
LLC, 322 F.Supp.3d 72, 78 (D.D.C. 2018) (cleaned
up). Indeed, “summary judgment is premature unless all
parties have ‘had a full opportunity to conduct
discovery.'” Convertino v. U.S. Dep't of
Justice, 684 F.3d 93, 99 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257
Committee states that it will oppose any request for
discovery. Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Expedite at 11. And
perhaps this is one of those unusual cases in which discovery
is inappropriate. But at this point-without the benefit of