Breaking News

Government urges court to decide census case now

Last week the challengers in the dispute over the decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census asked the justices to put off their ruling because of new evidence in the case. Today the federal government responded, describing the challengers’ claim as “meritless” and urging the justices to deny the request.

The justices heard oral argument in the case in April, after a federal district judge in New York blocked the government from using the question on the ground that the government’s conduct violated the federal laws governing administrative agencies.

After the oral argument, the challengers notified the Supreme Court about new evidence suggesting that Thomas Hofeller, a Republican redistricting strategist, was involved in the decision to add the citizenship question to the census, to provide whites and Republicans with an advantage in future elections. The challengers returned to the Supreme Court approximately two weeks later, telling the justices that the district court had concluded that the new allegations were “serious,” but that its hands were tied while the case was pending before the Supreme Court.

The challengers asked the justices to either uphold the district court’s ruling barring the government from using the citizenship question or send the case back to the district court for more factfinding –specifically, about whether officials in the Department of Commerce, including Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, shared Hofeller’s motives for adding the question.

In today’s filing, the government dismissed the challengers’ contention that Hofeller was the real author of a letter from the Department of Justice to the Department of Commerce asking for the citizenship data as a “conspiracy theory” that was “implausible on its face.” But in any event, the government continued, the challengers are “not entitled to a do-over now,” especially when they either “already knew or, with minimal diligence, easily could have discovered” the substance of the evidence “months ago.”

And after a district court in Maryland on Wednesday ruled that another look at whether the government intended to discriminate against immigrants by adding the citizenship question is warranted, the government urged the Supreme Court to make clear in its opinion that there was no intent to discriminate.

Finally, the government pushed back against the challengers’ suggestion, made in their filing last week, that the government could delay finalizing the questionnaire until the end of October. Doing so, the government stressed, would require “exceptional resources”; the district court “correctly found,” the government explained, “that for all practical purposes,” the questionnaire needs to be finalized by the end of this month.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Government urges court to decide census case now, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 20, 2019, 6:57 PM),