On January 25, 2018, Judge Messitte held oral arguments in Greenbelt, Maryland. Blackman attended. The very first question from the bench referenced our amicus briefs, and asked the parties to address whether the Maryland Complaint concerns actions taken in the President’s official or individual capacity. Over the course of nearly five hours of argument time, counsel for the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia maintained that Trump’s receipt of (purported) emoluments concerned his official capacity. But once confronted by skeptical questions from the bench, Plaintiffs volunteered to amend their complaint to bring claims against the President in his individual capacity.
Judge Messitte did not order the Plaintiffs to amend their complaint, but during the hearing, counsel for Plaintiffs represented that they would do so in due course, presumably through a Rule 15 motion. At the hearing, the Justice Department did not indicate that it would oppose such a motion—rather, the Government suggested that it would file a new motion to dismiss. In short, the Maryland action, which had been set either to be dismissed or to proceed onto discovery, now sits in limbo awaiting a Rule 15 motion to amend, a new round of briefing on a motion to dismiss (and possibly in regard to the Rule 15 motion too), and, presumably, a new oral argument on the revised motion to dismiss (and, perhaps, also in regard to the Rule 15 motion). Moreover, all Plaintiffs have to do, to move the litigation into its new “path,” the obvious direction it should always have been in, is to change the Complaint’s caption and the 1-page prayer for relief; yet, it is now more than a week later, and still no amended complaint has been filed.