A federal judge decided Thursday that a different judge should handle President Donald Trump’s suit to prevent House Democrats from obtaining his New York state tax returns, delaying a decision on the president’s request for a restraining order against the Democrats.
Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, rejected a bid by Trump lawyer William Consovoy to have McFadden hear both that case and a separate lawsuit by Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal seeking the president’s federal returns.
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At a hearing Thursday, Consovoy argued the cases are so similar that McFadden ought to handle both.
But McFadden disagreed, noting one involved federal tax law and the other state law. What’s more, McFadden said, Democrats are plaintiffs in one case and defendants in the other, and that could have ramifications for their legal strategies in the cases.
“It feels like a very different situation,” he said.
While the New York case will be reassigned to another judge, McFadden will still handle Neal’s lawsuit for Trump’s federal filings.
Lawyers for Neal said they did not have an opinion on whether McFadden ought to take both cases. The state of New York argued the cases ought to be considered separately.
Cases are randomly assigned to judges except when they are considered closely related.
McFadden did not rule on Trump’s plea for a restraining order to prevent House Democrats from taking advantage of a newly passed New York law allowing state officials there to share Trump’s returns with Neal. That will be decided by the new judge.
Though Neal has been lukewarm about using the law, Trump filed suit Tuesday expressing concern that the Massachusetts Democrat might suddenly change his mind. On Wednesday, Trump asked the court for the restraining order to prevent Neal from acting while the case was being considered.
But House Democrats urged the court to reject Trump’s request, arguing the court does not have the authority to grant the restraining order.
“The Ways and Means Committee’s decision whether to avail itself of a newly enacted provision of the New York tax code is a legislative act absolutely immune from challenge through the court system,” lawyers for the House of Representatives said in a court filing. “This Court thus lacks jurisdiction to grant the relief requested by Mr. Trump.”