Coastside resident Louie Castoria, who also writes the Review’s weekly humor column, is headed to Washington — or onto Zoom — this spring to try a case in front of the highest court in the country.
The case, Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra, concerns whether the state of California should be allowed to compel nonprofits to
disclose their top donors to the attorney general. It’s a first for Castoria, who has lived just outside Half Moon Bay for more than three decades.
The U.S. Supreme Court granted the case a hearing on Jan. 8 but has not yet discussed the merits of the case or set a date for the hearing. While Castoria would prefer to argue on behalf of his client in person, he said the hearing could be held virtually in April or May depending on COVID-19 restrictions.
Castoria said he took up the case in 2015 because of its implications for the First Amendment. The state’s attorney general had tried to suspend the conservative nonprofit Thomas More Law Center from doing business in California because it refused to turn over its donor list. Castoria argues that California’s requirement that nonprofits submit their donor lists as part of their tax returns to the IRS silences speech.
“We all should be free to peacefully support causes we believe in without fear of retribution or intimidation,” Castoria said.
While the donor lists are not made available to the public, Castoria said data leaks are common, and even the safest information is subject to hacking. But more importantly, Castoria said, any information sharing at all is a violation of a donor’s right to anonymous advocacy.
“If you know or think your name is going to be given to a state’s attorney general without doing anything wrong, it might make you think twice,” Castoria said.
As for whether he thinks the ruling will go in his client’s favor, Castoria said he can’t say.
“I’ve been practicing law for 40 years and I never predict the outcome from one, let alone nine, justices,” Castoria said. “I think we have a really strong case, but (the court) might view it differently.”