After issuing a preliminary injunction against California's law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns before appearing on the ballot -- a clear attack on President Trump -- a couple weeks ago, a judge on the Eastern District of California issued an order yesterday explaining the basis for finding the law unconstitutional on several grounds. RNLA leaders and members have been leading the fight against California's anti-Trump law: Harmeet Dhillon, Mark Meuser, Justin Clark, and Stefan Passantino are litigating the federal law challenge to the law, while Chuck Bell is litigating the state law challenge.
Pepperdine Law Professor Derek Muller describes the court's analysis, after noting that the court also found that the law is preempted by the Ethics in Government Act:
First, the statute runs afoul of the Elections Clause, meaning California lacked the power to add this rule as a condition of ballot access. (This is the argument I make in Weaponizing the Ballot.) It relies on Term Limits v. Thornton and Cook v. Gralike, in addition to a Ninth Circuit opinion Schaefer v. Townsend that struck down a voter registration requirement as a condition of ballot access.
Second, the court concluded it burdened the associational interests of candidates, voters, and political parties under the First Amendment. The court concluded the burden was “severe” because it was a “functional bar” on candidates who refused to disclose tax returns, a “severe” burden that the state failed to justify.
Third, the court held that it violated the Equal Protection Clause by “distinguishing among constitutionally eligible candidates,”—that’s because general-election independent candidates would not need to disclose their tax returns, but primary candidates would.
President Trump praised the decision and criticized the media silence:
I won the right to be a presidential candidate in California, in a major Court decision handed down yesterday. It was filed against me by the Radical Left Governor of that State to tremendous Media hoopla. The VICTORY, however, was barely covered by the Fake News. No surprise!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2019
It is unclear whether the state will appeal, but as RNLA Vice President for Communications Harmeet Dhillon says:
On today's decision blocking #SB27, GOP atty. @pnjaban Harmet Dhillon says "we hope that in light of this decisive, multi-layered opinion, California drops this biased effort to disenfranchise Republican voters, and moves on to more productive efforts..."— Scott Shafer (@scottshafer) October 2, 2019
Thanks to Harmeet Dhillon, Mark Meuser, Justin Clark, Stefan Passantino, Chuck Bell, and others for opposing California's blatant attempt to keep President Trump off the presidential primary ballot.