By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday barred California from enforcing, at least for now, a new state law aimed at U.S. President Donald Trump that would require all candidates in state nominating contests for the presidency to release their tax returns, the Los Angeles Times reported.
U.S. District Judge Morrison England temporarily suspended the law, saying at a hearing that candidates, including Trump, could suffer “irreparable harm” if the law was allowed to take effect while lawsuits were litigated, the newspaper reported.
A series of lawsuits, including one by Republican Trump, sought a temporary restraining order against the law signed in July by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.
England also suggested that such a law enacted on the state level would run counter to the federal Ethics in Government Act, according to the paper.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement that he believed the law was constitutional but would wait for a formal written ruling by the judge before deciding whether to take further legal action.
Trump’s lawsuit, filed by his personal attorneys, argued that the California law violates the constitution because it sets up illegal new rules governing who can seek the presidency.
A similar one was filed by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based conservative legal group, on behalf of four voters registered in California – two Republicans, a Democrat and an independent. The Republican Party also lodged a lawsuit.
The California measure requires presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns in order to appear on a nominating ballot in California, the most populous U.S. state.
Trump refused to release his tax returns during the 2016 campaign, bucking a practice typically followed by presidential nominees.
In July the Democrat-controlled Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives sued the Treasury Department to force the release of Trump’s tax records.
The same month New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to a law requiring the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance to release any returns sought by the congressional committees.
Trump also sued to block the New York law, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has refused to hand Trump’s returns over to the Ways and Means Committee.
An earlier version of the California law had been vetoed by Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown, a Democrat who expressed concerns over its constitutionality.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Bill Tarrant and Grant McCool)