Second judge won't let Justice Department lawyers swap out on census case

Attorney General William Barr speaks to reporters after a tour of a federal prison in Edgefield

Attorney General William Barr speaks to reporters after a tour of a federal prison in Edgefield

A NY judge says the Justice Department can't change lawyers so late in the dispute over whether to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled that the addition of such a question on the census was constitutional, but left it to the lower courts to determine if the Trump administration's reasons for adding the question were legitimate.

President Trump is expected to make an announcement on an "executive action" as it relates to the census, FOX Business has confirmed. The Trump administration's effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census is unlawful.

Trump, in a tweet, said he would hold a news conference about the census following a planned meeting on social media on Thursday afternoon.

The Trump administration has denied that adding the question is meant to boost its political fortunes through redistricting, but many Democrats charge that the question is meant to scare away Latinos from participating in the census, resulting in an undercount of that population. The ACLU represents plaintiffs in the census case in NY.

But this week, two federal judges rejected the Justice Department's plan to switch up the legal team, saying it can't replace the team so late in the dispute without satisfactorily explaining why it's doing so. "Adding a citizenship question does not obey the law, it mocks it", Wolf said.

Trump said last week that he was "very seriously" considering an executive order to try to force the citizenship question's inclusion, despite the fact that the government has already begun the lengthy and expensive process of printing the census questionnaire without it.

No reason was given, but Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that the lawyer who was leading the team, James Burnham, informed him some of the people working on the case preferred "not to continue during this new phase".

A Census Bureau official said during a trial a year ago that the form could be finalized after June, and as late as October, but only if "exceptional resources" were provided.

The court's decision does leave open the possibility for the administration to make another case for the question.

"What they want to do is to put a chilling effect so that certain populations will not answer the form", Pelosi said.

"I have no intention of allowing this flagrant waste of money", Rep. José Serrano of NY, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Census Bureau, said in a written statement released Tuesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union had opposed the "mass withdrawal" of the legal team.

But he might have tipped his hand when he mentioned the 5 p.m. "census meeting" and criticized the federal and Supreme Court judges who blocked an earlier citizenship question attempt.

A Census Bureau report released just last month estimated that adding the question was likely to reduce responses in households with at least one non-citizen by at least 8 percent.

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