Judge Lets Lawsuit Challenging Census Citizenship Question Move Forward

on March 22, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

A federal judge in New York on Thursday allowed a lawsuit challenging the addition of a citizenship question to the Census to move forward. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman’s decision rejected the Trump administration’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, which was brought by numerous states and localities.

The judge said that the court has jurisdiction to review Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add the question, rejecting the administration’s arguments that Ross could be insulated from judicial review.

Furman said that while Ross indeed had the authority under the Constitution to add the question, the judge concluded that the exercise of that authority in this particular case may have violated the challengers’ constitutional rights.

At this stage of the proceedings, Furman is required to assume the challengers’ allegations are true, and he must draw any inference from those allegations in the challengers’ favor. In doing so on Thursday, Furman said that the challengers “plausibly allege that Secretary Ross’s decision to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 census was motivated by discriminatory animus and that its application will result in a discriminatory effect. ”

“As discussed below, that conclusion is supported by indications that Defendants deviated from their standard procedures in hastily adding the citizenship question; by evidence suggesting that Secretary Ross’s stated rationale for adding the question is pretextual; and by contemporary statements of decisionmakers, including statements by the President, whose reelection campaign credited him with ‘officially’ mandating Secretary Ross’s decision to add the question right after it was announced,” Furman said, referencing a campaign email sent in March, after Ross announced his decision to add the question.

Furman did dismiss one set of complaints made by the challengers: that the addition of the question was a violation of Enumeration Clause of the Constitution, which requires an “actual Enumeration” of persons living in the United States every ten years.

The challengers’ claims that Ross’ move violated their rights to equal protection of the law under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as well as under the Administrative Procedure Act, will be allowed to move forward, Furman said.

Read the opinion below:

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