Armed by the Democrat-led General Assembly to sue the Trump administration, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has taken the Republican president and his agency leaders to court this year in what Frosh calls an effort to prevent environmentally damaging deregulation, unconstitutional constraints on Muslims and abuse of presidential power for financial gain.
Frosh, a Democrat, listed his 20 litigation efforts this month in a year-end report on the Maryland Defense Act, a joint resolution approved in February enabling the attorney general to sue the federal government without prior approval from the governor or further authority from the legislature. The General Assembly adopted the resolution – which did not require Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature — over the objection of the GOP minority in the Senate and House of Delegates.
Republican lawmakers accused their Democratic colleagues and the attorney general of trying simply to score political points.
Frosh has rejected the accusation, saying his only concern is protecting Maryland and its residents.
“The Trump administration’s actions over the last year threaten the health of the Chesapeake Bay and trample the civil rights of Marylanders,” Frosh said in a statement accompanying the report’s release last week. “My office has used the authority granted by the General Assembly to defend Maryland and its citizens from the illegal, unconstitutional, and harmful actions of the Trump administration.”
Much of Frosh’s courtroom involvement has included joining lawsuits with other attorneys general.
For example, he joined in litigation seeking to prevent the Trump administration from weakening the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for limiting light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. The case, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers v. EPA, is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
“Greenhouse gas emissions pose a significant threat to public health and climate stability, and Maryland has unique vehicle pollution challenges because of the high volume of out-of-state vehicles that drive through the state on I-95 and other highways,” the attorney general’s report stated.
Frosh said he has sought to intervene in a court challenge to EPA’s decision to allow the continued use on fruit and vegetable crops of a pesticide, chlorpyrifos, suspected of causing developmental delays in infants and children. The challenge is pending in the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as LULAC v. Pruitt.
Frosh has also joined a federal lawsuit in Northern California, California et al. v. Pruitt, challenging what he calls EPA’s failure to designate areas not in attainment with the agency’s national ambient air quality standards for smog.
“The designations, which are required under the Clean Air Act, trigger an obligation on the part of states to take action to reduce smog pollution and to set deadlines for reducing pollution levels,” the report stated. “Because smog can cause significant health problems and even death, the delay in making these designations will expose Marylanders to increased death rates and hospital visits.”
With regard to constitutional claims, Frosh joined Washington state’s lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s ban on citizens from designated majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. The challenge was based on grounds of religious freedom and equal protection.
Frosh said the ban would harm Maryland universities, which have large foreign-student populations, and the state’s technology industry, which employs many foreign scientists.
“Most fundamentally, Maryland has an interest in ensuring that the federal government does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, or religion,” the report stated.
With Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl A. Racine, Frosh has sued Trump directly, alleging he has violated the Constitution’s foreign and domestic emoluments clauses by accepting domestic- and foreign-government payments related to his real-estate holdings in the United States and abroad. The lawsuit, The District of Columbia and the State of Maryland v. Donald J. Trump, is pending in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt
“Marylanders have the right to honest government,” the report stated. “We are entitled to know that decisions impacting Maryland are being made on the basis of merit and not on the basis of the president’s personal financial gain.”
The Trump administration has called the lawsuit politically motivated and baseless because neither Maryland nor District of Columbia residents have been injured by the president’s alleged constitutional violation.