The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide the legality of the Trump administration’s plan to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
The justices said they would hear arguments during the second week of the April argument session on the administration’s appeal of a federal court order blocking the question from inclusion on the census questionnaire.
U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco had asked the justices to act quickly to hear and decide the citizenship issue because, he said, June 30 is the deadline for finalizing the census questionnaire for printing.
The Supreme Court case is a consolidation of two lawsuits, one led by New York, joined by 16 states, seven cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the second filed by the New York Immigration Coalition, represented by Dale Ho of the American Civil Liberties Union and a team of lawyers from Arnold & Porter.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Friday:
“Adding a question about citizenship to the Census would incite widespread fear in immigrant communities and greatly impair the accuracy of population counts. Any underrepresentation of the real number of people living in states and localities could reduce representation in Congress and funding for New York and other states and localities across the country.”
The Trump administration is seeking to overturn U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York’s Jan. 15 ruling that found that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other government officials had violated federal laws “in multiple independent ways” in moving to include the citizenship question.
By granting review of that ruling, the justices—at the administration’s request—pre-empted review of Furman’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
“In light of the immense nationwide importance of the decennial census, if the district court’s ruling is to stand, it should be this court that reviews it,” Francisco wrote in his petition at the Supreme Court.
They challengers contend the addition of a citizenship question would deter participation in the survey and cause an undercount of the national population. They also claimed the Trump administration’s decision discriminated against communities of color.
The U.S. House of Representatives filed an amicus brief supporting the challengers in the Supreme Court.
“Because, according to the department’s own calculations, the 2020 Census will fall well short of the goal of actual enumeration if a citizenship question is included, the district court’s decision finding inclusion of that question to be unlawful should be affirmed,” House general counsel Douglas Letter wrote in the brief.
Hogan Lovells partner Neal Katyal and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center also were on the House’s brief.
Lawsuits challenging the government’s decision have been filed in California and Maryland where trials are underway in four of them.