Last week, the Ninth Circuit upheld the lower court’s temporary restraining order on the Trump administration’s travel ban. If you listen to some news outlets, you’ve probably heard this described as an activist decision by politically motivated judges. To those on the other side of the issue, this was a much needed check by the judiciary on a rogue executive. But for all the opinions being bandied about, it is important to understand what the Ninth Circuit’s decision actually did — and didn’t — do.
Two and a half years into law school, I am still woefully ignorant of the U.S. Constitution. For example, I only recently found out about the Emoluments Clause. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution says, “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” (In case you’re wondering, an emolument is generally defined as compensation for services or from employment or an office). Basically, the Clause is meant to prevent political office-holders from accepting gifts so that they aren’t improperly influenced by outside entities.