Judge Blocks DOJ Request To Switch Lawyers In Census Citizenship Case

Attorney General William Barr speaks to reporters after a tour of a federal prison in Edgefield

Attorney General William Barr speaks to reporters after a tour of a federal prison in Edgefield

A federal judge in NY blocked the Justice Department on Tuesday from replacing nearly all of the lawyers defending the Trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, saying the government had not offered adequate reasoning for why it wanted new counsel.

"Defendants provide no reasons, let alone 'satisfactory reasons, ' for the substitution of counsel", Judge Jesse 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.

The new team came about after a top Justice Department civil attorney who was leading the litigation effort told Attorney General William Barr that multiple people on the team preferred not to continue, Barr told The Associated Press on Monday. He said he'll require new attorneys to promise personnel changes will not slow the case.

He said the case is speeding along and it's been the administration that's been pushing for that speed.

"If anything, that urgency - and the need for efficient judicial proceedings - has only grown since that time", he said. They have also failed to produce an alternate rationale for the question, after the Supreme Court rejected the first one as being "contrived". It also hinted at the possibility that administration officials feared the lawyers would no longer be viewed as credible by judges presiding over the case.

Trump's administration has faced numerous roadblocks to adding the question, including the Supreme Court's ruling that blocked its inclusion, at least temporarily.

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.

"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. 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.

It initially said the census citizenship question was meant to help enforce the Voting Rights Act (despite this law being something Republicans have worked to dismantle in recent years).

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

Tuesday's ruling is the latest in the controversy around the citizenship question.