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Challengers notify justices about additional developments in census case

The Supreme Court is expected to rule any day now on the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. Despite that looming deadline, the wrangling over new evidence, some of which was discovered in the files of a Republican redistricting specialist, continued today, with lawyers for the challengers notifying the justices about new developments outside the Supreme Court.

The justices heard oral argument in the case in late April. At the end of May, the challengers notified the Supreme Court about new evidence that, they said, demonstrated that the strategist – Thomas Hofeller, who died last year – was involved in the decision to add the citizenship question to the census. The evidence, the challengers argued, showed that the government wanted to add the citizenship question to give an advantage to whites and Republicans in upcoming elections – not, as the government has long maintained, to better enforce federal voting-rights laws.

Earlier this month, the challengers asked the Supreme Court to put off its ruling on the citizenship question in light of the new evidence. Instead, they contended, the justices should send the case back to the district court for it to look at whether government officials shared Hofeller’s motives. The government resisted, calling the challengers’ suggestion a “conspiracy theory” that is “implausible on its face.” The justices need to resolve the legality of the citizenship question by the end of June, the government stressed, so that the Department of Commerce can finalize the census questionnaire and start printing the forms.

With no sign of any action on the challengers’ request, today the challengers returned to the Supreme Court to inform the justices about two more developments. A federal judge in Maryland, explained lawyer Dale Ho of the ACLU, ruled that the new evidence had created a “substantial issue” about whether Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross had intended to discriminate against Hispanic voters. Although the case is now pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, U.S. District Judge George Hazel indicated that if it were sent back to him, he would move quickly to rule on the Maryland challengers’ discrimination and civil-rights claims.

The challengers also told the justices about a new Census Bureau paper that indicates that the effect of including the citizenship question on responses by households with residents who are not U.S. citizens will be more significant than previously believed.

The justices will take the bench to release opinions again on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. There is no way to know whether the census case will be one of those opinions or – if it is not – when the decision will be released.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Challengers notify justices about additional developments in census case, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 24, 2019, 6:42 PM),