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September 19, 2019

Federal Judge Blocks California Trump-Harassment Law Which Demands His Tax Returns

They blocked on the basis of federal pre-emption.

Federal pre-emption is a doctrine that starts first from the very well-settled principle that federal law trumps state law.

In federal pre-emption, a court decides that the federal government's silence on a matter indicates that the federal government has decided against any additional laws in the area under consideration, and that lack of federal law also trumps state law.

The reasoning goes: If the federal government has so regulated a particular field, with the regulation being well-developed and touching on most matters in the field, then an inference can be drawn that they intended that federal exercise of jurisdication to be the exclusive law in this area, and that state laws which purport to merely "supplement" federal law or expand upon it will be struck down as being inconsistent with the federal scheme.

Obviously, there are a lot of federal laws and regulations in the area of elections and candidate qualifications.

On Twitter, @johnmyers reports that a federal judge has issued a temporary injunction against the Made For Trump "law" demanding Trump turn over his tax returns. The reasoning is, the federal government has promulgated lots and lots of laws and regulations in this area, and the fact that they did not additionally make tax returns a prerequisite for seeking federal office implies that they chose against that, and a state can't override that decision to not require tax returns.

States can do whatever they like with requirements for state office, but the federal government obviously has a lot to say about requirements in federal elections.

Breaking: a federal judge has temporarily blocked implementation of the California election law requiring Trump tax returns.

Story coming shortly, but in essence, Judge Morrison England, Jr. raised a number of Qs about whether federal financial disclosure rules, under the Ethics In Govt. Act (EIGA) supersedes any state law like #SB27

In other words, that the Ethics in Government Act pre-empts state lawmaking in this area.

I'm not a legal reporter, but hard to not see that Judge England had serious concerns that #SB27 could be pre-empted by federal Ethics In Govt. Act and language that it supersedes other financial disclosure requirements. EIGA forms are more broad in their info than tax returns.

That is, if the federal government wanted to demand tax returns, they could have done so easily. But they chose not to, asking for "broad" disclosures regarding finances but not the particularized run-down of a tax return.

An armada of lawyers were on hand to represent the five plaintiffs in Eastern Dist. cases against #SB27. Two representing President Trump, others representing voters and CAGOP. England didn't seem to buy all of their points, but EIGA was key issue.

I think we also get into Constitutional questions here. The Constitution specifies the qualifications for a candidate running for office -- and those qualifications do not include "has submitted his tax returns to California partisans to be leaked to the media." Courts use that particular objection to stamp out, for example, state laws that limit the number of terms federal office holders can serve -- if the Constitution doesn't impose such a restriction, how can a state pass a law requiring it?

But federal pre-emption will get you there too.

BTW: You might wonder why, if the Constitution forbids certain additional requirements on federal office seekers, why the Ethics in Government Act can stand and remain in operation. The answer is: Pff the top of my head, I don't really know.

I mean, most stuff in law has some kind of Goldilocks Rule (whatever it might be called in any situation) that says "This rule asks too much, but a different rule might be just right."

In other words, a kind of bullshit vague standard that lets the Court bless laws they like but not the ones they don't like. Federal law, and especially Constitutional law, is choked with "balancing tests" and "three-factor analytical frameworks."

They put a lot of effort into never offering a clear black-and-white yes-or-no rule. (Except for people like Clarence Thomas.)

I don't know what rule is in operation here but I would guess there are a series of cases that lay out what is effectively a Goldilocks Rule.

Also, Congress, a federal creature, is owed more deference in laws about the operation of the federal government than state legislatures.

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posted by Ace of Spades at 05:36 PM

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