Judge Jesse Furman rejects Trump legal team changes 2020 census citizenship case


The Justice Department can't replace nine lawyers so late in the dispute over whether to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census without explaining why it's doing so, a judge says.

Last week, the Trump administration signaled it would explore a "path forward" to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite a Supreme Court decision last month that appeared to have effectively blocked the government from going ahead with the controversial change, which critics say is created to expand the political power of the Republican Party.

"Defendants provide no reasons, let alone "satisfactory reasons, ' for the substitution of counsel", Furman wrote in his order".

Justice Department attorneys working on the case reportedly pushed to get off the assignment, citing frustration with how the case was handled, the Washington Post reports.

Yesterday, Attorney General Bill Barr announced Department of Justice attorneys have found a way to include the question.

Furman called the department's request "patently deficient", except for two lawyers who have left the department or the civil division which is handling the case.

The judge said the department may petition the court again to swap lawyers, but each request must be accompanied by a "signed and sworn affidavit" explaining the rationale.

"If anything, that urgency-and the need for efficient judicial proceedings-has only grown since that time". 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. That's especially true, he said, given that legal briefs are due in a few days on whether the judge should issue an order preventing any action by the government to put the question on the form.

The Trump administration is seeking to place a citizenship question in the decennial census, a move that has been thwarted by the judiciary.

"The President is going back and taking a look and saying, 'I'm going to use everything in my legal authority to make sure this question is added to the census because the American people have a right to know just who's in this country, '" Hogan continued.

All of the other lawyers must submit an affidavit that provides "satisfactory reasons" for leaving the case, Furman said, citing a rule from the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of NY.

Civil rights groups have argued that asking about citizenship status may discourage immigrants from participating in the census, producing an undercount of immigrants, particularly immigrants of color, in official tallies.

President Donald Trump tweeted about the judge's decision Tuesday night, questioning whether the attorney change denial was unprecedented.