United States District Court, District of Columbia
DONALD J. TRUMP, Plaintiff,
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, et al., Defendants.
J. NICHOLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
8, 2019, New York's governor signed the Tax Returns
Released Under Specific Terms Act (“TRUST Act”)
into law. Am. Compl., Dkt. 30, ¶ 61; see also
N.Y. Tax Law § 697(f-1), (f-2) (2019) (codifying the
TRUST Act). The TRUST Act amends New York's tax laws to
authorize the chairperson of one of three congressional
committees, including the House Committee on Ways and Means,
to request the New York state tax returns of the President of
the United States, among other elected officials. Tax §
697(f-1). If that request is made in writing and certain
requirements are met, the Commissioner of the New York State
Department of Taxation and Finance
(“Commissioner”) is required to produce the
records to the relevant committee. Id.
date, no committee chairperson has made such a request. On
July 23, 2019, however, citing concerns that the Chairman of
the House Ways and Means Committee might soon attempt to
employ the TRUST Act to procure his New York returns, Donald
J. Trump filed this action. See generally Compl.,
Dkt. 1. Mr. Trump alleges that any request made for his state
tax returns would violate Article I of the U.S. Constitution
and the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Id. ¶¶ 69-72. And he alleges that the
TRUST Act violates the First Amendment because it was enacted
to discriminate and retaliate against his politics and
speech. Id. ¶¶ 73-76.
Trump also filed an Emergency Application for Relief Under
the All Writs Act. Dkt. 6; see also 28 U.S.C. §
1651 (2018) (permitting courts to “issue all writs
necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective
jurisdictions”). Mr. Trump's Emergency Application
seeks to preserve the status quo by preventing the disclosure
of his state tax returns while the Parties litigate the
legality of a request for them, if and when such a request is
briefing and argument on the Emergency Application, as well
as submissions from the Parties regarding how the case should
proceed, the Court largely adopted the New York
Defendants' proposal that the Court “rule on [their
personal jurisdiction and venue] defenses as a threshold
matter in consideration for which the Commissioner [would]
voluntarily agree to defer responding to any Committee
request for a period of one week following the Court's
ruling.” Joint Status Report, Dkt. 22, at 4. The Court
thus ordered that (1) the New York Defendants could, on an
expedited basis, move to dismiss the Complaint for lack of
personal jurisdiction and improper venue; (2) the New York
Defendants would not transmit any of Mr. Trump's tax
information that Chairman Neal might request while that
motion is pending and for a period of one week from the day
of the Court's decision on the motion; and (3) the New
York Defendants would notify the Court if Chairman Neal made
such a request during that same period. Order (Aug. 1, 2019),
Dkt. 25, at 3-4. Thereafter, the New York Defendants moved to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue,
and that motion is fully briefed. See generally N.Y.
Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. for Lack of Personal
Jurisdiction & Improper Venue (“Mot.”), Dkt.
36; Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Opp'n to N.Y.
Defs.' Mot. (“Opp'n”), Dkt. 37; N.Y.
Defs.' Reply Mem. of Law in Further Supp. of Their Mot.
(“Reply”), Dkt. 39.
reasons that follow, the Court concludes that it does not
presently have jurisdiction over either New York Defendant.
Mr. Trump bears the burden of establishing personal
jurisdiction, but his allegations do not establish that the
District of Columbia's long-arm statute is satisfied here
with respect to either Defendant. Mr. Trump has also not
demonstrated that jurisdictional discovery is warranted. Mr.
Trump may renew his claims against the New York Defendants
should future events trigger one or more provisions of the
D.C. long-arm statute, and he may, of course, sue either New
York Defendant in another forum (presumably in New York).
York law generally requires that state tax returns be held
confidentially and permits their disclosure in only certain
enumerated exceptions. See, e.g., Tax § 697(e)
(secrecy requirement); id. § 697(f) (permitting
disclosure to cooperate with certain U.S. and state
proceedings). The TRUST Act adds another exception. It
authorizes the chairpersons of the Committee on Ways and
Means of the U.S. House of Representatives
(“Committee”), the Committee on Finance of the
U.S. Senate, and the Joint Committee on Taxation to request
from the Commissioner “any current or prior year [state
tax] reports or returns” of “the president of the
United States, vice-president of the United States, member of
the United States Congress representing New York state”
or other public official enumerated in the statute.
Id. § 697(f-1). Such a request must
“certif[y] in writing”: (1) that the requested
tax “reports or returns have been requested related to,
and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of the
Congress”; (2) that the requesting committee has
“made a written request to the United States secretary
of the treasury for related federal returns or return
information, pursuant to 25 U.S.C. [§] 6103(f)”;
and (3) that any inspection or submission to another
committee or to the full U.S. House of Representatives or
Senate be done “in a manner consistent with federal
law.” Id. § 697(f-2). Assuming the
request includes those certifications, the Commissioner must
produce the requested returns with redactions for “any
copy of a federal return (or portion thereof) attached to, or
any information on a federal return that is reflected on,
such report or return.” Id. § 697(f-1).
23, 2019, following media reports of increasing pressure on
Chairman Neal to request Mr. Trump's state tax returns,
see Compl. ¶¶ 6, 62-68, Mr. Trump filed
this action against New York Attorney General Letitia James,
Commissioner Michael R. Schmidt (collectively, “New
York Defendants”), and the Committee. See generally
Id. Mr. Trump asserts two claims. In Count I, he claims
that a request under the TRUST Act would violate Article I of
the U.S. Constitution and the Rules of the House because the
request for his New York state tax returns would lack a
legitimate legislative purpose. Am. Compl. ¶¶
73-76. In Count II, Mr. Trump claims that the TRUST Act
itself violates the First Amendment and that the Committee
and New York Defendants would violate his First Amendment
rights by employing it to produce his state tax returns to
the Committee. Id. ¶¶ 77-81. Count II is
the only claim asserted against the New York Defendants.
Trump also filed an Emergency Application for Relief Under
the All Writs Act, asking the Court “to preserve the
status quo” to prevent his claims from becoming ripe
and then moot almost instantaneously without notice to him or
the Court, thereby depriving the Court of
jurisdiction. Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of
Pl.'s Emergency Appl. for Relief Under the All Writs Act,
Dkt. 6-1, at 5-6. Following briefing and oral argument on the
Emergency Application, the Court ordered the Parties to meet
and confer in light of the Court's stated goals of (1)
“ensuring that Mr. Trump's claims do not become
moot before they can be litigated”; (2) “treading
as lightly as possible, if at all, on separation of powers
and Speech or Debate Clause concerns”; and (3)
“adjudicating . . . this dispute only when it is
actually ripe and has a fuller record than presently
exists.” July 29, 2019 Hr'g Tr., Dkt. 23, at 53-54;
see Min. Order (July 29, 2019).
Parties were unable to reach agreement and instead filed
alternative proposals for how the case should proceed. The
New York Defendants, for their part, proposed that the
Commissioner would not respond to any request for Mr.
Trump's tax returns while the Court considered and ruled
on their forthcoming motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction and improper venue. Joint Status Report, Dkt.
22, at 4. The Court largely adopted this proposal and, on
August 1, 2019, ordered that (1) the New York Defendants
could move to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal
jurisdiction over them and for improper venue on an expedited
basis; (2) “during the pendency of the New York
Defendants' Motion and for a period of one week from the
Court's decision . . ., the New York Defendants shall not
deliver to the Committee any information concerning Mr. Trump
that may be requested by Chairman Neal under the TRUST
Act”; and (3) the New York Defendants shall notify the
Court if Chairman Neal made a request during that same
one-week time period. Order (Aug. 1, 2019), Dkt. 25, at 3-4.
the New York Defendants filed their initial Motion to
Dismiss, Mr. Trump filed an Amended Complaint that asserts
the same two substantive claims as his original Complaint,
but adds as defendants Chairman Neal and Andrew Grossman, the
Committee's Chief Tax Counsel, and adds factual
allegations related to the New York Defendants'
connections to this forum. See generally Am. Compl.
The New York Defendants renewed their Motion to Dismiss on
August 29, 2019.
federal court has jurisdiction over a defendant “who is
subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general
jurisdiction in the state where the district court is
located.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A). Thus, if a District
of Columbia court could exercise jurisdiction over the New
York Defendants, then so can this Court. E.g., West v.
Holder, 60 F.Supp.3d 190, 193 (D.D.C. 2014).
are two types of personal jurisdiction: “ general or
all-purpose jurisdiction and  specific or case-linked
jurisdiction.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations,
S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). “For an
individual, the paradigm forum for the exercise of general
jurisdiction is the individual's domicile.”
Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 137 (2014).
Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, “aris[es] out
of or relate[s] to the defendant's contacts with the
forum.” Id. at 127 (quoting Helicopteros
Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414
respect to specific jurisdiction, the Court “must
engage in a two-part inquiry: . . . first examine whether
jurisdiction is applicable under the [D.C.] long-arm statute
and then determine whether a finding of jurisdiction
satisfies the constitutional requirements of due
process.” GTE New Media Servs. Inc. v. BellSouth
Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (citation
omitted). The D.C. long-arm statute authorizes specific
jurisdiction “over a person, who acts directly or by an
agent, as to a claim for relief arising from” certain
contacts that person may have with the forum. D.C. Code
§ 13-423(a) (2019). As relevant here, a defendant's
contacts with the District of Columbia can establish specific
jurisdiction if the claim arises from the defendant's:
(1) transacting any business in the District of Columbia; . .
(3) causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an
act or omission in the District of Columbia; [or]
(4) causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an
act or omission outside the District of Columbia if he [i]
regularly does or solicits business, [ii] engages in any
other persistent course of conduct, or [iii] derives
substantial revenue from goods ...