When Trump last week demanded that the department reverse course after it conceded the 2020 census would not include the citizenship question, the government's lawyers struggled to explain a path forward when pressed by a federal judge.
The department attempted to change the team of lawyers after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 27 against the first attempt by President Donald Trump's administration to add the citizenship question, calling the rationale "contrived".
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, of the southern district of NY, scolded the Justice Department on Tuesday for its failure to offer "satisfactory reasons for the lawyers' withdrawal, as required by local rules". 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 Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the judge's order.
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".
Furman denied the request for all but two of the lawyers - Brett Shumate and Alice La Cour - who have departed from the Department of Justice and the Civil Division. As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether the Trump administration can ask people if they are citizens on the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau is quietly seeking comprehensive information about the legal status of millions of immigrants.More news: Borderlands 3 Reveals Ping System and Accessibility Features
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Furman said the urgency to resolve legal claims in the case and the need for efficient judicial proceedings had only grown. It also hinted at the possibility that administration officials feared the lawyers would no longer be viewed as credible by judges presiding over the cases.
However, those efforts now contradict what was told to the Supreme Court previously, because the Justice Department had said the ruling was needed quickly to ensure the timely printing of the census. - They want to make sure that people, certain people, are counted.
Furman said he would allow the Justice Department to try again. "We won't rest until we know the truth".
Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's voting rights project, said the Justice Department's move to switch legal teams was "unprecedented".
Critics of including the citizenship question argue it was designed as part of a Republican ploy to scare immigrants from participating in the survey and to engineer a population undercount in Democratic-leaning communities with large immigrant populations.
A majority of Americans say they support adding the citizenship question to the census.