Supreme Court drops 2020 census case

Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 18:14:51-05

The Supreme Court said on Friday that it will no longer hear a case related to the Trump administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

At issue in the case -- which was set to be argued February 19 -- was a discovery dispute concerning whether challengers to the move could introduce evidence at trial outside of the official record, including the testimony of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Since the court agreed to hear the case however, a federal judge in New York struck the citizenship question without relying upon the Ross deposition.

The lower court's opinion likely rendered the case before the Supreme Court moot. On Friday, the justices removed it from the court's calendar and filed a docket entry noting that the "briefing schedule is suspended pending further order from the court."

The court's action on Friday does not mean the larger issue might not make its way back to the Supreme Court. The Trump administration has already signaled that it plans to appeal the district court decision penned by Judge Jesse Furman of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals. The administration might also file an emergency petition with the Supreme Court at a later date.

In his ruling, Furman held that Ross's decision to add a citizenship question -- even if it did not violate the Constitution itself -- was unlawful for a "multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside."

The ruling was a victory for the ACLU and a coalition of states who charged that the Trump administration's real reason for adding the question was to reduce the representation of immigrant populations. They said the question would harm the response rate in households comprised of non-citizens because some family members might be too afraid to come forward.

Last March, Ross who has jurisdiction over the census, said that the Justice Department requested the change in part because the information would be useful for its enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

The question hasn't been asked of all recipients to the census since 1950.