Judge blocks Justice Department move to change lawyers in 2020 census case

Court denies DOJ's lawyer swap in citizenship question case

A federal judge in NY late Tuesday blocked the Justice Department from assigning a new team of lawyers to defend President Donald Trump's ongoing efforts to include a citizenship question to the U.S. Census in 2020.

The Justice Department announced the replacements on Sunday, days after President Donald Trump contradicted his own lawyers and said he would push ahead with adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

"Defendants provide no reasons, let alone 'satisfactory reasons, ' for the substitution of counsel", Furman said. As The Post's report notes, the legal team that was to be replaced specializes in this subject; the team that would have replaced it is more of a "truly random assortment", according to Justin Levitt, who worked on such issues in the Obama Justice Department.

A federal judge in NY rejected the Justice Department's attempt to swap out its lawyers in the case.

But [Judge] Furman said that before lawyers can get off a case, court rules require them to explain why they wish to withdraw and that the DOJ request was "patently deficient". But it was unusual to switch out an entire team of lawyers "in overtime, with no explanation", he added. "The Trump administration is acting like it has something to hide, and we won't rest until we know the truth", Dale Ho, director of the group's Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. Officials have suggested that if the government is able to prevail in court that the question could be added as some sort of addendum.

Furman said the urgency to resolve legal claims in the case and the need for efficient judicial proceedings had only grown.

The Supreme Court blocked the question from appearing on the census in a 5-4 ruling last month. Some saw the decision to replace the attorneys as a sign that the Trump administration was treading on shaky legal ground and did not want to make further representations to the court.

Last week, the Commerce Department announced that the census had started printing without inclusion of the question, and the administration has stressed that printing process would continue through the ongoing legal fight.

Judge Furman said the government could come back with a new argument giving reasons for the change.

The Department of Justice said on July 7 that it was shifting legal teams.

Trump and his supporters say it makes sense to know how many non-citizens are living in the United States.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, a U.S. House Democrat who oversees funding for the U.S. Census Bureau said he would not support money being spent to reprint forms if the Trump administration won court approval to include the citizenship question.

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