Justice Department shifting census case to new team of lawyers

The Justice Department (DOJ) is shifting matters involving efforts to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census to a new team of lawyers.

“As will be reflected in filings tomorrow in the census-related cases, the Department of Justice is shifting these matters to a new team of Civil Division lawyers going forward," DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told The Hill in a statement on Sunday.

"Since these cases began, the lawyers representing the United States in these cases have given countless hours to defending the Commerce Department and have consistently demonstrated the highest professionalism, integrity, and skill inside and outside the courtroom."

"The Attorney General appreciates that service, thanks them for their work on these important matters, and is confident that the new team will carry on in the same exemplary fashion as the cases progress,” Kupec added.

A DOJ official told ABC News earlier that James Burnham, currently the deputy attorney general in the department’s civil division who formerly served as a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office, will be leaving the team.

The Supreme Court blocked the administration's move to ask about citizenship on the census weeks ago, ruling that the government's argument that the question is necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act was unsatisfactory.

Last Tuesday, the Commerce Department announced that it had begun printing copies of the census without the question.

The next day, government lawyers revealed they were mounting a last-ditch effort to try to include the citizenship question.

On Friday, DOJ lawyers told a federal judge that the Trump administration is reviewing “all available options” for adding the question.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE also announced that he is considering an executive order to include the question.

The census is crucial for determining the number of congressional seats and electoral votes that each state gets.

Critics have panned the citizenship question as an effort to undercount immigrant communities and possibly reduce their resources and representation in Congress.