Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit Against California’s Tax Return Law Directed at Trump

By Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
August 6, 2019 Updated: August 6, 2019

A federal lawsuit was filed by Judicial Watch on Monday, challenging California law S.B. 27, which requires presidential candidates to publicly disclose five years of personal income tax returns in order to appear on the state’s primary ballot. S.B. 27 would prevent President Trump from appearing on California’s 2020 ballot.

Judicial Watch will be representing four California voters who filed the lawsuit last week against California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D). The lawsuit will challenge the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, S.B. 27.

“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,” Newsom, a staunch opponent of Trump, wrote in a statement after signing the bill.

Tom Fitton
President of Judicial Watch Tom Fitton. (York Du/NTD)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed the bill into law on July 30 that now requires President Donald Trump to release his tax returns to the public if he wants to appear on the state’s primary ballot next year.

Judicial Watch argues that the law is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit alleges that the law violates the plaintiffs’ rights under the First and 14th amendments of the Constitution and that California doesn’t have the power to add more requirements such as the disclosure of tax returns because it goes beyond the qualification requirements for the president that are laid out in the Constitution.

Judicial Watch argues that S.B. 27 requires candidate qualifications beyond those permitted by the U.S. Constitution and “impermissibly burdens a voters’ expressive constitutional and statutory rights.”

“This could lead to as many as 50 distinct and possibly inconsistent sets of qualifications regarding the only national election in the United States,” Judicial Watch argues. “Using rationales similar to California’s, states might come to demand medical records, mental health records, sealed juvenile records, driving records, results of intelligence, aptitude, or personality tests, college applications, Amazon purchases, Google search histories, browsing histories, or Facebook friends.”

Sighting similar reasons to the Judicial Watch lawsuit, Former California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2017, reported CBS Sacramento, writing that it would set a “‘slippery slope” precedent.

Trump is the first president in recent history who has not released his tax returns. Trump administration officials have said that Trump is not legally required to release his tax returns.

Newsom is not the only official who has taken legal action against Trump for disclosure of his tax returns.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) had issued a subpoena earlier this year to try to force the administration to turn over the past six years of Trump’s returns, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused, saying that the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” a Supreme Court precedent requires and that the Justice Department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.”

The four California voters who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Jerry Griffin, a registered Republican from Los Angeles County; Michelle Bolotin, a registered independent from Los Angeles County; Michael Sienkiewicz, a registered Republican from San Francisco County and James B. Oerding, a registered Democrat from Yolo County.

“California politicians, in their zeal to attack President Trump, passed a law that also unconstitutionally victimizes California voters,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

“It is an obvious legal issue that a state can’t amend the U.S. Constitution by adding qualifications in order to run for president. The courts can’t stop this abusive law fast enough.”

NTD News reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

Masooma Haq