Judge says he's not ready to rule on new claims about census citizenship question

A federal judge in New York on Monday indicated that he would not quickly resolve new claims about how a citizenship question was added to the 2020 census, saying that the matter was secondary to the Supreme Court's current consideration of the question.

Judge Jesse Furman said during the brief hearing in a New York federal courthouse that he considers the new claims to be secondary to the matter currently before the Supreme Court, according to multiple media reports.


The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of the month about whether the citizenship question should be allowed in the 2020 census.

Newly-revealed documents claim that late GOP redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller played a substantial role in adding the citizenship question. Opponents of the question have long claimed it was added for political reasons, while the Trump administration has argued that the question is necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Furman, an Obama appointee, said he considers the new claims surrounding Hofeller's alleged role to be “serious,” according to media reports.

But he also said he wasn’t prepared yet to issue a decision on whether Trump administration officials should be sanctioned in light of the new claims, saying he needed further briefings on the matter.

The judge set deadlines that stretch over the next couple of months for parties in the case to make those filings, with the final briefing due on Aug. 2.

Furman’s order is a blow for those who hoped the new evidence would impact the upcoming Supreme Court ruling. Legal experts tell The Hill that it’s unlikely the justices will consider the new claims, as the record for the case is already closed.

In a statement released after the hearing, Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Voting Rights Project, pointed to Furman's assessment that the evidence is "serious." Furman called a hearing on the new claims after the ACLU revealed the evidence in a court filing last week.

“Those questions go to the heart of this case: whether the Trump administration engaged in a cover-up or its real motive in adding a citizenship question to the census is to dilute the voting rights of minority communities," Ho said.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled during arguments in the case earlier this year that they would rule in favor of the citizenship question.

But the new evidence has roiled Congress. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsVoters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? 'Kamala' and 'Kobe' surge in popularity among baby names MORE (D-Md.) has given Attorney General William BarrBill BarrNew DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossSupreme Court to hear arguments on Trump administration's attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from census Central Asia is changing: the Biden administration should pay close attention Census Bureau can't meet Trump's deadline for data on undocumented immigrants: report MORE until Thursday to hand over documents as his committee investigates how the question was added or face the prospect of being held in contempt by Congress.

The officials had failed to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents in the case, and Cummings pointed to the newly-revealed claims as further reason to obtain the agency records.

Cummings doubled down on that threat on Wednesday, saying that unless his panel receives the documents “we will be forced to move forward with holding Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt of Congress.”

-- Updated at 6:28 p.m.