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Supreme Court dismisses case on House oversight lawsuit from 2017

Justices had agreed to hear Democratic-led case, but now they won't

Lawmakers had sought information about the former Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Lawmakers had sought information about the former Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call)

The Supreme Court no longer will decide a case about whether lawmakers can turn to the courts when the federal government denies requests for documents, in a dispute tied to Donald Trump’s lease of the Old Post Office Building in Washington from the federal government.

The justices, who previously agreed to decide the case, instead dismissed it Monday in a brief order. The move came after Democratic members of Congress dropped their lawsuit and asked the high court to no longer decide the issue.

The case would have tested a law that allows seven members of what was then called the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to request documents from the federal government, which is separate from the typical authority of the panel’s majority to do so.

The Supreme Court order Monday also wiped out a lower court ruling that had sided with the lawmakers.

Democrats on the panel originally filed the lawsuit against the General Services Administration for their requested documents related to the agency’s lease of the building to Trump. The Democrats were concerned about the potential for the Trump administration to use the lease and the hotel itself to benefit Trump personally.

In the latest twist, attorneys for the members of Congress in a filing had urged the justices not to rule on the “theoretical” question of whether lawmakers have the legal right to sue under the law, since they had dropped their lawsuit.

The filing said the members knew that they are soon set to run out of time to pursue the records anyway, and the Supreme Court case may not even address the few remaining records in dispute, anyway.

In a response, the Biden administration had argued that the records law at issue does not give members the ability to sue for the documents they seek, and wrote that the justices could still rule on the issue.

“At the outset, the fact that this suit has become moot would not prevent this Court from resolving the question on which it granted certiorari,” the administration filing said.

Of the 17 original Democrats who sued, 10 are still in the House. They are Reps. Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts, Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, Robin Kelly of Illinois, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Mark DeSaulnier of California, and Dels. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia and Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands.

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