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Queens Chronicle

Trump sustains 2nd U.S. Census setback

Federal judge rules DOJ can’t switch lawyers in citizenship question case

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Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:27 pm, Thu Jul 11, 2019.

A federal judge on Tuesday disallowed a request by the U.S. Department of Justice to replace attorneys who have been arguing the Trump administration’s case to include a citizenship question on the 2020 federal census.

The New York Times and other published sources reported that U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman rejected a request by new counsel in the case until members of the existing legal team submit affidavits explaining the reason for their intended departures.

It was the second legal setback for the administration’s case since June 27, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Department of Commerce had not offered sufficient reasons for including the question in the census. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the reasons given appeared to have been contrived. The justices then ordered the case remanded to the district court from whence it came.

On July 2 the government began printing materials without the citizenship question, until President Trump, in a tweet, expressed his disapproval, calling reports that they were dropping their efforts “FAKE.”

Rumors had been running rampant in the last few days that the administration’s attorneys would either try to withdraw from the case or be replaced.

New York State is a party to the lawsuit trying to stop inclusion of the question. A statement emailed to the Chronicle by state Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday was scathing.

“Despite the president attempting to fire his lawyers, this is not an episode of ‘The Apprentice,’” James wrote, referring to the president’s former reality show on NBC. “Judge Furman denied his request and required the Administration to comply with the rules regarding substitution of counsel.”

Critics of the citizenship question assert it is an attempt by the Trump administration to drive down participation in the Census by immigrants both legally and illegally in the country, who might be fearful about providing the necessary information to the government.

James and others have charged repeatedly that it is aimed at driving down numbers in blue states where immigrants tend to congregate, thus reducing the amount of federal funding and in come cases the number of congressional seats those states would have.

The administration and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had argued that including of the question was requested by the Department of Justice in order to better enforce the federal Voting Rights Act, a contention Roberts, who joined the court’s liberal justices in the 5-4 ruling, found dubious based on documents seeking to include the question from before the DOJ request.

Roberts wrote that the government’s rationale was “unknown, but unrelated to the Voting Rights Act.”

Roberts added, however, that the Constitution does not in theory ban inclusion of the question in the census.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Monday told the Associated Press that the administration is moving ahead with its efforts to include it.

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