Saturday, 17 August, 2019

US says revamping census legal team is justified: Maryland filing

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court Cruz: 'Constitutional Responsibility' of Trump, Barr to Go Forward with 2020 Census Citizenship Question
Patty Aguilar | 11 July, 2019, 03:46

A federal judge in Maryland has denied the Justice Department's request to change its legal team in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's efforts to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census, one day after another judge in NY denied a similar request in a parallel case.

But Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of NY, who is reviewing one of the legal challenges to the question, denied the government's request to withdraw the team of lawyers.

The "court can not fathom how it would be possible, at this juncture, for a wholesale change in Defendants' representation not to have some impact on the orderly resolution of these proceedings", Judge George Hazel wrote Wednesday.

The Justice Department's announcement about the changing legal team heightened speculation that there have been concerns among members of the original legal team tasked with carrying out President Donald Trump's demands to include the citizenship question, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling blocking the move.

Napolitano also pointed out that attorneys for the Justice Department "cannot contradict what they said earlier", explaining that Trump "got them in a little bit of trouble" on that end.

The request to shift legal teams was submitted on Monday, prompting a challenge from attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups who asked the judge not to grant the motions "absent a clear articulation of "satisfactory reasons" for these withdrawals and unequivocal assurances from defendants that these withdrawals will not delay the conduct of this case".

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The attorney who was leading the team, James Burnham, "indicated it was a logical breaking point since a new decision would be made and the issue going forward would hopefully be separate from the historical debates", Barr said. Almost two weeks ago, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the plans to add the census question, saying the administration's justification for adding the question "seems to have been contrived".

Critics, and the Census Bureau itself, agree that adding the question will lead to a significant undercount of the USA population, as immigrant households may be fearful to fill out the document if they have non-citizen family members.

Some plaintiffs in the citizenship question lawsuits say they are determined to find out why Justice Department attorneys want to step away from the cases.

The Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, initially said last week that printing of census forms that did not include the question had already begun.

"If anything, that urgency - and the need for efficient judicial proceedings - has only grown since that time", Furman said. But he said it must be accompanied by assurances that any more changes won't affect the timeline of the case.

To now risk a slowdown by changing lawyers with no explanation is unwarranted, he said.

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