California’s chief elections officer said Tuesday he will appeal a federal judge’s decision to block a state law that would have required President Trump to submit five years’ worth of his personal income tax returns in order to be included on the state's 2020 primary ballot in March.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced his plans just hours after U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. issued a written opinion saying the state law likely violates the U.S. Constitution. England Jr., who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002, had announced last month he planned to block the law.
“California will appeal this ruling and we will continue to make our thorough, thoughtful argument for stronger financial disclosure requirements for presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Padilla said in a statement. “Our elected leaders have a legal and moral obligation to be transparent with voters about potential conflicts of interest. This law is fundamental to preserving and protecting American democracy.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had signed the proposal into law in July. Jesse Melgar, the governor’s spokeswoman, told the Los Angeles Times that Newsom supported an appeal of Tuesday's ruling, adding: “States have a legal and moral duty to restore public confidence in government and ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards.”
In his 24-page decision, England Jr. said the law violates Trump's First Amendment right of associating with voters who share his political beliefs. He also noted the California Legislature is controlled by Democrats, who passed a law targeting a Republican president.
"The dangerous precedent set by this act, allowing the controlling party in any state's legislature to add substantive requirements as a precondition to qualifying for the state's presidential primary ballot, should concern all candidates alike," the judge wrote.
"The dangerous precedent set by this act, allowing the controlling party in any state's legislature to add substantive requirements as a precondition to qualifying for the state's presidential primary ballot, should concern all candidates alike."
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow praised the ruling in an interview on "Hannity," saying the law reflected "an ongoing pattern and practice of trying to basically shred the Constitution." England Jr.’s ruling affirmed that it was outside the state’s authority to set qualifications for running for president. That power belongs to the Constitution.
Lawyers from state and national Republican parties, who are also defendants in the lawsuit, voiced concerns during last month’s hearing that leaving Trump off the primary ballot would stifle Republican voter turnout at the primaries and, therefore, ensure that fewer GOP candidates make it to the general election.
Under California’s so-called jungle primary system, all candidates, regardless of party, vie for the same elected office and the top two vote-getters move on to the general election. Since it was implemented in California in 2010, this system has often ensured a Democrat-vs.-Democrat general election battle in all but California’s most conservative areas.
California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson called the ruling a victory for voters and their ability to vote for the candidate of their choice. Patterson said in a news release: "This decision rightfully stops the Democrats' petty politics and their efforts to disenfranchise millions of California voters and suppress Republican voter turnout."
Fox News' Andrew O’Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.