The conservative group Judicial Watch on Monday announced a legal challenge to California's new law that prevents President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE from appearing on the state's 2020 primary ballot unless he discloses his tax returns.
Judicial Watch is representing four California voters who filed a lawsuit last week in federal court in Sacramento against California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D).
California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia governor signs legislation targeting Amazon warehouse speed quotas Newsom signs privacy laws for abortion providers and patients Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies MORE (D) last week signed legislation, S.B. 27, that requires candidates for president and governor to disclose their tax returns in order to appear on the state's primary ballot. Under the law, candidates have to provide their federal tax returns from the five most recent taxable years to the California secretary of state at least 98 days before the relevant primary election.
The lawsuit alleges that California doesn't have the authority to impose on candidates a qualification to disclose tax returns, because it goes beyond the qualification requirements for the president that are laid out in the Constitution. The lawsuit also alleges that the new law violates the plaintiffs' rights under the First and 14th amendments of the Constitution.
"California politicians, in their zeal to attack President Trump, passed a law that also unconstitutionally victimizes California voters,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a news release Monday. “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.”
When Newsom signed the law, his office put out a press release that included quotes from constitutional law experts arguing that the law is constitutional.
"SB 27, which requires that presidential candidates disclose tax returns, is constitutional. It does not keep any candidate from being on the ballot so long as he or she complies with a simple requirement that is meant to provide California voters crucial information," Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, said in the governor's release. "This is the state acting to make sure that its voters have information that might be very important to them when they cast their ballots as to who they want to be President of the United States."
But legal challenges to the California law were widely expected. Newsom's predecessor, former Gov. Jerry Brown (D), vetoed a previous version of the measure in 2017, saying it might not be constitutional. And Trump's personal lawyer, Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 57 House Republicans back Georgia against DOJ voting rights lawsuit The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - New video of riot unnerves many senators MORE, said that the California law would be answered in court.
Judicial Watch's lawsuit argues that unless the California law is enjoined, "states will assume the power to create their own qualifications for national candidates seeking to obtain a party’s nomination for president."
"This could lead to as many as 50 distinct and possibly inconsistent sets of qualifications regarding the only national election in the United States," the lawsuit 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."
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.
Judicial Watch's lawsuit is the latest legal challenge concerning Trump's tax returns. Last month, the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit in an effort to obtain Trump's federal tax returns, and Trump filed a lawsuit in an effort to prevent the committee from getting his New York state tax returns.
Trump is the first president in decades who hasn't voluntarily released his tax returns. He has said he won't release his returns while under audit, but the IRS has said that audits don't prohibit people from releasing their own tax information.