Naomi Jagoda at The Hill:
One year after House Democrats requested President Trump's tax returns from the IRS, the chances of the public seeing the documents prior to the 2020 election are slim.
The administration rejected the request from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), prompting him to file a lawsuit. But the court case has moved slowly, with a Trump-appointed federal judge putting it on hold while a separate lawsuit moves through the legal system
Other court cases over Democrats' efforts to obtain Trump's financial records are further along in the legal process, and oral arguments in those cases were originally scheduled to take place before the Supreme Court this week. But the Supreme Court postponed arguments due to the coronavirus, and no new date has been set.
The Ways and Means Committee's lawsuit isn't the only case about Trump's tax returns and financial records.
Trump, in his personal capacity, has sued the committee to prevent Neal from using a New York law to request his state tax returns. Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump-appointed judge in federal district court in D.C., has ordered the committee to notify the court and Trump if it requests the president's state tax returns, and to not receive any requested documents for 14 days. The committee has appealed the ruling.This analysis looks at Trump's history of lawsuits, looking closely at some of the high-profile examples.
The most obvious lesson that can be learned from Trump’s legal history is that you can weaponize lawsuits for your own ends. The Deutsche Bank lawsuit from 2008 was clearly intended to negotiate a new loan repayment agreement, the TrumpNation lawsuit was most likely intended to intimidate the publisher and author into pulling their books, and the numerous lawsuits against Palm Beach County in the 90’s were to let him bypass existing restrictions and do whatever he wanted with his property.
To be fair, Trump is far from the only person who has used litigation in this way. In fact, this practice is so widespread that it’s been given a name— Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). According to California lawyer Aaron Morris, this term refers to a lawsuit where the plaintiff “does not care whether [they] win the lawsuit” and is only interested in getting the defendant to give up due to “fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion.”
Weaponized litigation has become a major problem that threatens the integrity of America’s legal system, but the good news is that many parts of the country offer anti-SLAPP legislation. This means that successfully identifying legal action taken against you as a SLAPP in these states can have the case thrown out and harshly punish the plaintiff for their abuse of the system.
This isn’t a perfect solution to the problem; many states still don’t have anti-SLAPP laws and there’s no legislation for it on the federal level. However, it can make it easier to conduct business and criticize public figures in anti-SLAPP states without worrying as much about unfair legal repercussions.