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EDITORIAL: Federal court nixes California’s Trump tax ploy

Updated October 2, 2019 - 10:30 pm

A federal judge this week formally tossed out a California law intended to force Donald Trump to release his tax returns. The decision highlights how California’s leftist leaders have placed their allegiance to the Resistance above their fealty to the Constitution.

In July, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that denied presidential candidates access to the state primary ballot if they failed to make public five years of their tax filings. The law applied to members of both major parties, but was clearly aimed at Mr. Trump.

Notably, Gov. Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, had refused to sign a similar measure. “Today we require tax returns,” then-Gov. Brown noted in his 2017 veto message, “but what will be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”

Critics on both the left and right warned the California law was clearly unconstitutional because, among other things, it imposed requirements for presidential eligibility beyond those already outlined in the Constitution. But Gov. Newsom and California lawmakers were more interested in preening than in respecting the nation’s founding document.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Morris C. England issued a written ruling in the case, granting a request from Mr. Trump’s attorneys and various GOP interests for an injunction preventing the state from enforcing the law. Judge England’s repudiation of California’s misguided efforts was convincingly thorough. He “agreed with every single argument the plaintiffs presented,” Reason.com noted.

The law “interferes with the ability of both individuals and political parties to select the individual presidential candidate of their choice,” Judge England wrote, adding, “These are severe restrictions, since limitations on ballot access can violate multiple constitutionally protected interests, including the right to associate for political purposes, the right to vote and the right to express political preferences.”

The judge also picked up on former Gov. Brown’s sensible reasoning, noting the danger of allowing states, “for naked political purposes,” to pile additional requirements on candidates seeking ballot access. This “cannot possibly comport with the Framers’ goal for a fixed and nationwide standard for such federal offices.”

Showing his disdain for the taxpayers, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has announced an expensive and futile appeal. He should just hold a bonfire in downtown Sacramento stoked by wheelbarrows overflowing with $100 bills.

If Democrats want to make the president’s refusal to release his tax returns an issue, so be it. Let the voters decide. But as a federal court has now agreed, trampling on the Constitution to force their desired outcome is beyond the pale.

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