Politics

California high court tosses law aimed at forcing Trump to release tax returns to get on state primary ballot

Key Points
  • The California Supreme Court overturns a new state law that had sought to force President Donald Trump to release his income tax returns in order to get on the next presidential primary ballot in the state.
  • The new ruling comes on the heels of repeated losses by Trump in federal courts, where he tried to bar a House committee and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office from getting access to his tax returns.
  • Trump, who has repeatedly resisted calls to release his tax returns despite having promised to make them public, now is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block those efforts to get his returns.
U.S. President Donald Trump greets supporters after arriving in Air Force One at LAX Airport on April 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Michael Kovac | WireImage | Getty Images

The California Supreme Court overturned a new state law that sought to force President Donald Trump to release his closely guarded income tax returns in order to get on the presidential primary ballot in California next March.

The Supreme Court decision this week found that the state's constitution barred the law passed this year from requiring any presidential primary candidate to file five years' worth of federal income tax returns to get on the ballot.

Enforcement of that law — the first of its kind in the United States — already had been blocked by a federal court ruling in September that found the legislation violated the U.S. Constitution.

State officials were appealing that federal ruling. But a decision in the appeal would not have been issued in time for March's primary.

If the law had been upheld, Trump and other presidential contenders would have had to send the California secretary of state copies of their tax returns by next Tuesday if they wanted to appear on the ballot.

Trump's lawyers had previously said he would likely skip the primary rather than comply with the law if it were upheld.

The new ruling comes on the heels of repeated losses by Trump in federal courts, where he tried to bar a Democratic-led House committee and the Manhattan, New York, district attorney's office from getting access to his tax returns.

Trump, who has repeatedly resisted calls to release his tax returns despite having promised to make them public, now is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block those efforts to get his returns.

Trump is the first president since Gerald Ford not to release his tax returns.

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The saga of Trump's taxes

In its ruling, the California Supreme Court said that the state legislature, which passed the ballot-related law last year, "may well be correct that a presidential candidate's income tax returns could provide California voters with important information."

But, the court said, the new law focusing on tax return disclosure conflicted with the state's constitution, which says primary ballots must include those found by the secretary of state "to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California" for the office of president.

"Ultimately," the court ruled, "it is the voters who must decide whether the refusal of a [presidential primary candidate] to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box."

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the California Republican Party against Alex Padilla, the California secretary of state.