Supreme Court allows trial in census case to proceed

The Supreme Court late Friday refused the Trump administration’s request to postpone a trial in lawsuits challenging its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

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The court rejected the administration's request without explanation. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, of the high court’s conservative wing, said they would have granted the application.

The government had asked the court to delay the trial until it resolves a dispute about whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossJudge denies attempt to delay ruling in Census case DOJ officials mulled sidestepping confidentiality of census answers: report On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report MORE and another high-ranking administration official can be questioned under oath.

The trial, which is scheduled to start Monday, stems from a lawsuit 17 blue-leaning states and a handful of cities brought against the administration. The case was consolidated with a separate challenge brought by immigrant rights groups.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to temporarily block a lower court order that allows Ross to be deposed in the case, but refused to stop John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, from being questioned. 

The government has argued the challengers should not be able to probe the mental processes of Ross and other officials to see if they harbor secret racial animus. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in his request to the court that proceeding to trial would “unavoidably distract the government, including the Commerce Department, from the energetic performance of its constitutional duties.”

The challengers are seeking to question Ross and Gore about how the decision to add a citizenship question was made and who was involved in the decisionmaking process.

They argue the question will scare people in immigrant communities away from responding, skewing an accurate population count. The census figures are used to redraw House districts and divvy up federal funding among the states.  

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought the case on behalf of the immigrant rights groups, hailed the court’s ruling on Friday.

“We are pleased the Supreme Court rejected this Hail Mary attempt to stop the trial from moving forward,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said.

“We’ll see the Trump administration in court on Monday.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment.