Lawsuits Multiply Against Law Requiring Tax Returns for Ballot Access

Scott Lay
Publisher of The Nooner

A lawsuit by Rocky De La Fuente was filed last week challenging the constitutionality of SB 27 (McGuire and Wiener), the bill signed by Governor Gavin Newsom requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to file tax returns to get on California primary ballots.  That federal suit was filed in the Southern District of California by De La Fuente (San Diego), a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who is running in 2020 as a Republican, alleging that the bill infringes on the Qualifications Clause of the Constitution that prescribes criteria for President and First Amendment rights of association of him and his (now) fellow Republican Party members. Monday, suits were also filed in the Eastern District (Sacramento) and Central District (Los Angeles).

Yesterday, the Trump campaign and Republicans, well, followed suit, also in the Eastern District. This will be the highest profile case. I haven’t had time to review the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure yet on case consolidation across districts, but will look into it this afternoon.

The Eastern District suit was filed by Judicial Watch on behalf of four voters, representing both registered Democrats and Republicans. The Central District case was filed on behalf of a Los Angeles County GOP voter.

I shared my legal perspective on SB 27 on July 12 and need not rehash that today. I really hope the Eastern District case goes to trial as I’ll be the kiddo lining up to watch arguments.

A quick answer to a few questions I have gotten that actually trips up law students when faced for the first time. For us, it was in second year Con Law II. Each of the suits allege SB 27 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, which often come as a two-fer. Peas and carrots. Bacon and eggs. Chicken and waffles.

The First Amendment provides:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Fourteenth Amendment was one of the Reconstruction Amendments following the civil war. The Fourteenth does many things, but for our purposes today, Section 1 is what’s important, specifically the Privileges and Immunities clause:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Thus, the Fourteenth adopted in 1868 through many cases over the years extends the enumerated rights in the First to laws made by the state, even though the language of the First Amendment adopted in 1791 speaks to Congress.

That’s Tuesday simple and of course entire books have been written on the topic.

You can find the filed complaints, relevant law and general information here at my Around the Capitol website.

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