US Politics

California Cant Force Trump to Release Tax Returns, State Supreme Court Says

Californias Supreme Court ruled unanimously Nov. 21 that a law requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the primary ballot there violates the states constitution.

Senate Bill 27, which was sponsored by Democrats and became chapter 121 of the California Elections Code after being signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 30, requires presidential candidates to file their income tax returns for the five most recent taxable years with the secretary of state in order to have their names listed on a primary election ballot. The secretary of states office would make redacted versions of the returns available to the public on its website within five days.

The bill lays out the same requirements for the candidates for governor but applies to primary elections, not general elections.

Tani Cantil-Sakauye
Tani Cantil-Sakauye
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye delivers her State of the Judiciary address before a joint session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on March 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The court said the law—the first of its kind in the nation and widely believed to be aimed squarely at President Donald Trump, who has refused to release his tax returns, but recently said he would do so before the 2020 election—was unconstitutional because its requirement for disclosure of tax returns to qualify for the ballot added exclusivity.

“This additional requirement … is in conflict with the Constitutions specification of an inclusive open presidential primary ballot,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the 7–0 decision. “Ultimately, it is the voters who must decide whether the refusal of a recognized candidate throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box.”

A U.S. judge had temporarily blocked the bill from becoming state law, in response to a different lawsuit; the high court ruled quickly because the deadline to file tax returns for getting on the primary ballot is next week.

The states Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson challenged the bill, saying it singled out Trump.

“Todays ruling is a victory for every California voter,” Patterson said in a statement. “We are pleased that the courts saw through the Democrats petty partisan maneuvers and saw this law for what it is—an unconstitutional attempt to suppress Republican voter turnout.”

Jessica Millan Patterson

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