Judge Orders Deposition Of Wilbur Ross For Census Citizenship Question Lawsuit

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Group

A federal judge ordered that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sit for a deposition in a lawsuit challenging his decision to add a citizenship question to the Census. The Justice Department had been fighting the move to depose him in the case, which is a consolidation of the lawsuits filed in New York challenging the question.

“Applying well established principles to the unusual facts of these cases, the Court concludes that the question is not a close one: Secretary Ross must sit for a deposition because, among other things, his intent and credibility are directly at issue in these cases,” U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman wrote in his opinion.

His opinion quoted a number of internal documents that have been produced as part of the litigation that showed Ross’ deep involvement in the decision and that undercut the administration’s official rationale for adding the question.

“In short, it is indisputable — and in other (perhaps less guarded) moments, Defendants themselves have not disputed — that the intent and credibility of Secretary Ross himself are not merely relevant, but central, to Plaintiffs claims in this case,” Furman said, later adding that the challengers had also “demonstrated that taking a deposition of Secretary Ross may be the only way to fill in critical blanks in the current record.”

The judge also said that “there is something surprising, if not unsettling, about Defendants’ aggressive efforts to shield Secretary Ross from having to answer questions about his conduct in adding the citizenship question to the census questionnaire.”

Furman’s order limited a deposition to four hours. It is likely that the Justice Department will appeal the order.

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