Judge Rejects “Patently Deficient” Trump Administration Request in Census Case

Published on July 9, 2019 by Athena Pallas

After President Trump refused to accept the Supreme Court’s decision that a citizenship question could not be added to the 2020 Census, the Trump administration planned to swap out all of the Justice Department lawyers in the underlying lawsuit, but today a judge rejected their request. In Manhattan U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman today not only ruled against the request, but called it “patently deficient”, according to Bloomberg News, saying that the Trump administration had provided “no reasons, let alone ’satisfactory reasons,’ for the substitution of counsel.”

The Supreme Court had called the reason the Trump administration gave for adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census “contrived” and many see the effort as political in nature, especially after it was revealed that a Republican redistricting expert was involved in recommending the question be added, according to NBC News. The addition of that question is seen by many as potentially causing an underreporting in areas with denser immigrant populations, which could change congressional districting and allocation of funds to the advantage of Republicans. Now Trump appears to be taking two potential routes to get him what he wants, that citizenship question – either issuing an executive order to add the question, ignoring the Supreme Court’s ruling, or coming up with a new supposed rationale for adding the question, a rationale the Supreme Court might find reasonable, rather than contrived. It is for that second option that the Trump administration wanted to change in its entirety the legal team it was using on the case, but its request was rejected today. According to Bloomberg News:

A federal judge rejected a request by the Trump administration to assign a new legal team to a lawsuit that blocked the U.S. from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan called the government’s request “patently deficient,” adding that the U.S. had provided “no reasons, let alone ’satisfactory reasons,’ for the substitution of counsel.” Government officials have been searching for a way to insert the citizenship question on the census following a Supreme Court ruling that put the administration’s plan on hold because its rationale for the query was “contrived.” …The Trump administration hasn’t detailed why it sought to replace the U.S. lawyers handling the lawsuit. The Washington Post, citing a person familiar with the matter, said that some of the original lawyers on the case had concerns about the way the government was handling it.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, the Trump administration had claimed that it needed an answer by the end of June because it needed to begin printing the 2020 Census forms by the beginning of July. After the Supreme Court’s ruling, the administration initially seemed to accept the decision and began to print the forms without the citizenship question, but then President Trump intervened by tweet (of course) to say that they were not giving up on adding the question. Trump has suggested he may attempt to delay the Census (which may be unconstitutional, depending on the delay) and may use an executive order to add the question, apparently ignoring the Supreme Court’s decision, which may also be unconstitutional. Trump continues to show disdain for the separation of powers of the different branches of government as well as for the checks and balances the other branches are supposed to provide over his branch, the executive. Democracy is dependent on those checks and balances and on each branch respecting the power of the others. Trump’s power grabs are undermining that democracy.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.