Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments in Trump census case

The Supreme Court on Friday said it will hear argument in a dispute over a lower court ruling that allowed Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossCanada arrests Huawei CFO facing US extradition for allegedly violating Iran sanctions: report Stocks slide after Trump warns China: 'I am a Tariff Man' George H.W. Bush remembered at Kennedy Center Honors MORE to be questioned under oath about his decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The Supreme Court said it will hear arguments on Feb. 19 in the battle over discovery in lower court cases challenging the additional census question.

The court last month granted the government’s request to block the order that required Ross to sit for a deposition but refused to block John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, from being questioned.

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The lower court rulings came in two cases, which have been consolidated in the federal district court in Manhattan, challenging the constitutionality of the citizenship question.

A coalition of immigrant rights groups and 17 blue-leaning states argue the additional discovery is needed to fully understand the basis for the question, which they claim will keep people in immigrant communities from participating in the census.

The government argued in its petition that the lower court erred in allowing discovery beyond the administrative record "to probe the secretary’s mental processes."

“It is inconsistent with the presumption of regularity, which requires courts to presume that executive officers act in good faith,” solicitor general Noel Francisco said.

Francisco argued the court went out of its way to adopt the most uncharitable reading possible of the secretary’s actions.

Ross announced in March that the administration would be adding the citizenship question to the Census to help DOJ better enforce the Voting Rights Act. ProPublica reported in December that DOJ had asked for it to be included. 

Judge Jesse Furman, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said in July that the challengers had made a sufficiently strong showing that Ross and other officials had acted in bad faith in adding the question. 

Updated at 2:30 p.m.