Plans to depose Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will remain on hold in the Census citizenship case, with the Supreme Court on Monday granting the Trump administration’s request to halt the deposition, which was ordered by a lower court.
The Supreme Court, however, will allow the deposition of a top Justice Department official to go forward, and will also permit additional discover in the case that was ordered by the lower court but that the Trump administration also sought to block.
An appeals court had upheld the lower court’s decision green-lighting a deposition of the two officials, prompting the Justice Department earlier this month to take the extraordinary step of asking the Supreme Court to intervene.
The order, a temporary stay pausing the lower court’s decision in favor of the deposition, set a deadline of next Monday for the Trump administration to ask that the court fully consider the move to depose Ross. If the Justice Department does not ask for that full review by the deadline, the Ross deposition will be allowed to go forward. Otherwise the hold remain in place while the Supreme Court considered that request.
It is also possible that the challengers in the case — a consolidation of lawsuits brought by the ACLU and multi-state coalition led by New York — could decide to withdraw their request to depose Ross, given that the trial is supposed to start in early November.
The challengers, in seeking to depose Ross, pointed to evidence that he had operated in “bad faith” in claiming that he was adding the question because the Justice Department requested it last December for Voting Rights Act enforcement, when in fact he had been seeking to include the question since the early days of the administration.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, said in a partial dissent from the order that he disagreed with the move to allow the deposition of the DOJ official, John Gore, and the additional discovery.
“[T]here’s nothing unusual about a new cabinet secretary coming to office inclined to favor a different policy direction, soliciting support from other agencies to bolster his views, disagreeing with staff, or cutting through red tape,” Gorsuch wrote.
It’s not clear from the order how other members of the court voted on the issue.
Read the order below: