A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to prevent a top Justice Department official from being deposed in a New York case challenging the move to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
A panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said that it had found “no clear abuse of discretion” in a district court’s decision ordering Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore to sit for a deposition.
Gore, a political appointee, is believed to have drafted a letter signed by a career official requesting that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross add the question to collect data for Voting Rights Act enforcement.
Other internal documents that have become public over the course of the litigation have revealed that the Justice Department was at first not interested in asking for the question.
Even before that, civil rights advocates have been deeply skeptical of that justification, and the Census Bureau’s own experts had come to the assessment that there are more accurate and less costly ways of collecting the relevant data. A citizenship question risks an undercount of immigrant populations — shifting political power and resources from those communities — and may be used to draw legislative districts in a way that doesn’t count those residents.
The challengers in the New York case — a consolidation of multiple lawsuits brought against the administration — are also seeking to depose Ross himself.
A federal court recently ordered the deposition, and the administration has hinted that it planned to appeal that ruling as well.
At the appeals court hearing on the Gore deposition question, a Justice Department lawyer could not say when the administration would appeal that ruling, according to NPR.
McArthur said decision’s “above my pay grade.”
Judge Wesley pushed back, “The clock is ticking.”
— Hansi Lo Wang (@hansilowang) September 25, 2018