The Trump administration will ask the Supreme Court to decide whether the government can append a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman forbade the government from incorporating the citizenship question on Jan. 15 in a sweeping decision that ran almost 300 pages.
At the administration’s bidding, the Court agreed to review a separate question arising from the citizenship case in December. After Furman issued his decision, the plaintiffs asked the justices to dismiss that case. The Department of Justice responded to that request in court filings on Tuesday, revealing they planned to appeal Furman’s decision in full directly to the high court.
“The government intends to file forthwith a petition…to review the district court’s January 15, 2019 opinion and order vacating and enjoining the reinstatement of the citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote.
Francisco emphasized the pressing time constraints at hand: the government must finalize the census questionnaire by June, which is not enough time for the ordinary appellate process to play out.
“It is exceedingly unlikely that there is sufficient time for review in both the court of appeals and in this Court by that deadline,” Francisco wrote. Therefore, he continued, granting the administration’s request to hear the case now “is likely the only way to protect this Court’s opportunity for review.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross issued orders providing for the addition of a citizenship question to the census survey in March 2018. The Department of Commerce oversees the Census Bureau.
Tuesday’s filing from the government is the latest in a succession of cases in which the Trump administration has short-circuited normal judicial process and asked the Supreme Court to review a district court decision before a federal appeals court does. Those requests, called petitions for certiorari before judgment, are rarely granted.
A sprawling coalition of civil rights groups, city governments, and blue states filed lawsuits challenging the citizenship question’s inclusion in April 2019. Those plaintiffs warn the citizenship question will reduce minority participation in the census. As such, the plaintiffs say they stand to lose federal funds and representation in Congress.
The Constitution mandates a census every 10 years to apportion seats in the House of Representatives among the states. Population is also used as a basis for rewarding federal aid. A citizenship question was included in the census until 1960.
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