SAN FRANCISCO -- California's top court appeared skeptical Wednesday that the Legislature may require presidential primary candidates to disclose not only their tax returns but also their birth certificates and psychiatric records.
During a hearing on a new law requiring presidential primary candidates to produce their tax records, a lawyer representing the state argued the Legislature had the power to impose all sorts of requirements. Though some justices appeared inclined to find some support for the new law, no one on the court embraced the notion that the Legislature had unfettered power.
Deputy Attorney General Jay C. Russell, defending the law, spoke of its expansiveness in response to a question from Justice Joshua Groban.
"Would the Legislature be entitled to impose requirements that candidates produce birth certificate or psychotherapy records or affidavits that they have never committed adultery or been a member of the Communist Party?" Groban asked.
Russell said yes, under the text of a state law, "the Legislature does have plenary power to regulate primary elections."
He noted, though, that some requirements could run afoul of privacy protections embodied in the state and federal constitutions.
"The Legislature can then tack on any number of additional requirements?" asked an incredulous Justice Ming W. Chin.
"Where does it end?" Chin asked. "Do we get all their high school report cards?"
Even justices whose questions suggested an openness to the tax returns requirement indicated there had to be some limits.
Justice Goodwin Liu told Russell that he seemed to be espousing "a very strange reading" of the law.