Federal judge blocks California law to force disclosure of Trump's tax returns

John Myers, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A federal judge ordered a temporary injunction Thursday against California's first-in-the-nation law requiring candidates to disclose their tax returns for a spot on the presidential primary ballot, an early victory for President Donald Trump but a decision that will undoubtedly be appealed by state officials.

U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. said he would issue a final ruling in the coming days but took the unusual step of issuing the tentative order from the bench. He said there would be "irreparable harm without temporary relief" for Trump and other candidates from the law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in July.

Morrison spent much of the court proceeding on the question of whether a longstanding federal financial disclosure law preempts any additional rules that a state could impose.

The federal law, known as the Ethics In Government Act, or EIGA, was originally passed in 1978 and applies to a range of top federal officials. Trump has filed the annual report, most recently in May, which provides an overview of his finances.

"Do we even need to get here if EIGA preempts (the new California law)?," England asked attorneys for the state. "Is that it?"

The hearing in a Sacramento courtroom consolidated arguments made in five separate lawsuits filed since enactment of the law.


Roque de la Fuente, who filed one of the lawsuits and was a minor party presidential candidate in 2016 after failing to win support in the Democratic Party, said he supports some limited, voluntary tax return disclosure.

"I don't think it should be mandated by the state," de la Fuente told reporters outside the courtroom.

Trump sued in August to block implementation of Senate Bill 27. His attorneys told the judge the California law would unfairly force the president to give up his right of privacy to keep his tax returns confidential in order to participate in the March 2 statewide primary.

California Deputy Attorney General Peter Chang told the court that states already have different primary election rules, and that SB 27 not only affects the chief executive of the nation, but also of California.


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