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California justices reject law requiring Trump tax returns

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 21, 2019

In this March 23, 2015 file photo, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye delivers her State of the Judiciary address before a joint session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. California's Supreme Court rejected a state law that would have required President Donald Trump to disclose his tax returns to appear as a candidate in the state's primary election next spring. The justices on Thursday said the law that would have required tax returns for all presidential and gubernatorial candidates to appear on the primary ballot was unconstitutional. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)
In this March 23, 2015 file photo, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye delivers her State of the Judiciary address before a joint session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. California's Supreme Court rejected a state law that would have required President Donald Trump to disclose his tax returns to appear as a candidate in the state's primary election next spring. The justices on Thursday said the law that would have required tax returns for all presidential and gubernatorial candidates to appear on the primary ballot was unconstitutional. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)
By Brian Melley Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – President Donald Trump does not have to disclose his tax returns to appear as a candidate on California’s primary ballot next spring, a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court said the law, the first of its kind in the nation and aimed squarely at Trump, was unconstitutional.

Trump has broken with tradition among presidential candidates by refusing to disclose his financial information.

A U.S. judge had temporarily blocked the state law in response to a different lawsuit. and the high court ruled quickly because the deadline to file tax returns for getting on the primary ballot is next week.

The state Republican Party and chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson challenged the bill signed into law this year by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom because it singled out Trump.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for every California voter,” Patterson said in a statement. “We are pleased that the courts saw through the Democrats’ petty partisan maneuvers and saw this law for what it is – an unconstitutional attempt to suppress Republican voter turnout.“

The state defended the law, saying release of tax returns was a simple way for voters to weight candidates’ financial status.

The law would have required candidates for president or governor to file copies of personal income tax returns dating back five years. Refusal to do so would keep them off the state’s primary ballot, but not apply to general elections.

Skeptical justices at a hearing earlier this month questioned whether such a law could open the door to future requirements of medical and psychiatric records or school report cards.

Attorney Thomas Hiltachk argued for the state GOP that the law violated a 1972 voter-approved amendment guaranteeing that all recognized candidates must be on the ballot.

Republicans also said it would lower voter turnout in the primary, hurting Republican legislative and congressional candidates’ chances of reaching the general election.

Trump has cited an ongoing Internal Revenue Service audit in refusing to release his returns.

Other courts have ordered Trump to turn over his tax returns to a Manhattan grand jury and the House of Representatives for separate investigations.

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to intervene in the demand from a congressional committee or to let a lower appeals court ruling stand that would require disclosure of Trump’s taxes.

Trump has also asked the high court to block a subpoena from a New York prosecutor for his tax returns.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is seeking the records in an investigation that includes alleged payments to buy the silence of adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal, both of whom claim they had affairs with the president before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denied the allegations

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