Judge Blocks California Law That Requires Trump to Release Tax Returns to Be on Ballot

September 19, 2019 Updated: September 19, 2019

A federal judge ruled on Thursday, Sept. 19 that a newly passed election law in California would cause President Donald Trump and other presidential candidates “irreparable harm without temporary relief” and issued a temporary injunction.

The move blocks the law for now.

District Court Judge Morrison England Jr. said he will issue his final ruling soon.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed the law in July. 

The bill, SB 27, or the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act requires a candidate for U.S. President or California Governor to file copies of every income tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years with the Secretary of State, at least 98 days prior to the corresponding primary election.

Trump sued in August to try to block the law and four other suits were filed by others, including former presidential candidate Roque de la Fuente.

England, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush, spent much of the time in court talking about whether a federal law, known as the Ethics In Government Act, would preempt the new law, reported the Los Angeles Times.

California Deputy Atty. Gen. Peter Chang tried arguing that “the voters need” the financial information “to elect their executives” but Thomas McCarthy, an attorney representing the president, said states cannot try altering the guidelines for presidential candidates outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

England suggested states making different laws for candidates creates confusion, wondering at one point: “Wouldn’t that create a hodgepodge of laws around the country?”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, California on March 13, 2019. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A bevy of Trump opponents have launched efforts to get the president to disclose his tax returns but none so far have been successful. One of the latest, from the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., was challenged by a lawsuit from Trump on Thursday.

Newsom said in a statement that “these are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence.”

“The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest,” he added.

Tim Murtaugh, an official with Trump’s 2020 campaign, said at the time that the law was unconstitutional.

“The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” Murtaugh said in a statement. “What’s next, five years of health records?”

He appeared to be alluding to a statement from former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar bill in 2017 while in office.

“Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power? A qualified candidate’s ability to appear on the ballot is fundamental to our democratic system,” Brown said at the time.

“For that reason, I hesitate to start down a road that well might lead to an ever-escalating set of differing state requirements for presidential candidates.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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