Let's say a liberal beats Trump in 2020; and wins a supermajority in both chambers of congress.

Him and his mates want revenge, and their supports do too, so they pass a bill to mess with Mr Trump.

The bill changes his family name for him and his children and wife to "clump", and forbids them from changing it, or using an alternative alias when advertising (or whatever is needed to make "Trump Tower" into "Clump Tower").

Is this legal? If not: why?

  • 6
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because questions of "what is the law" belong on legal stack exchange.
    – James K
    Oct 13, 2017 at 22:10
  • Given that Congress can't even stop people from trademarking offensive names: npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/19/533514196/… -- it's highly unlikely such a law would be Constitutional.
    – user2565
    Oct 16, 2017 at 16:06

3 Answers 3


There are two main legal defenses to this I see. The first is simply that changing someone's name is not a power enumerated in Article 1 of the US Constitution, so Congress is not allowed to legislate upon it. They might try to make a case that the law has something to do with regulating commerce, but I believe it is unlikely a court would accept such a reason. The second is that it probably infringes upon Donald Clump's right to freedom of speech; certainly any provision which would punish him for attempting to use his preferred name would infringe upon his speech.

To answer your question though, there is nothing illegal about Congress passing a law, ever. However, it is unlikely that this would survive very long - Clump may be able to get an injunction against the law while the case resolves within days or hours of the law being signed by the President, and if not the court may still issue summary judgement based on the issues above. At worst, it probably would not take more than a year or two for judgement to be rendered, at which point the Government would need to appeal to get the law back on the books.


I doubt it. I'm not going to vest too much hope in the first amendment since many exceptions have been made for it, however there are so many other challenges that I doubt congress could possibly defeat them all in a court of law.

Article I Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution poses a few problems to this. As a punishment, you simply can not punish a specific person because that constitutes a bill of attainder. The fact that this law is being passed in 2020 for something that happened in 2016 makes it an ex-post-facto law too. Even if Congress disingenuously tried to claim that the Clump name was being conferred as an honor, rather than a punishment this section are also prevents them from granting titles of nobility.

Affecting the family inheritance also constitutes corruption of blood, which might pose a difficulty under Article III section 3, since you are preventing the family from inheriting their rightful name.

I suspect that due process and equal protection provisions in the 5th and 14th amendment would also pose trouble in trying to address just one person, or family of persons in this manner.


If not: why?

The first amendment. Part of freedom of speech is being able to say things that you want, but another part is being able to not say things that you don't want to say.

Perhaps they could keep Trump from calling himself Barack Obama, as that would be misleading. They couldn't stop him from using his actual family name as he has used it for his entire life.

If by supermajority, you mean enough to pass a constitutional amendment, that doesn't require presidential approval. It does require ratification by three quarters of the states.

  • Multiple people have the same name all the time; what makes you think anyone couldn't change their name to Barack Obama? I doubt the confusion angle would fly.
    – Andy
    Jul 11, 2019 at 14:56

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