NEW YORK — A federal judge rejected a request by the Trump administration to assign a new legal team to a lawsuit that blocked the U.S. from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan called the government’s request “patently deficient,” adding that the U.S. had provided “no reasons, let alone ‘satisfactory reasons,’ for the substitution of counsel.”
Government officials have been searching for a way to insert the citizenship question on the census following a Supreme Court ruling that put the administration’s plan on hold because its rationale for the query was “contrived.” The forms for the once-a-decade headcount must be prepared soon to meet the deadline for 2020.
The Trump administration initially accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling and said it had begun printing forms without the question. But in a tweet, Trump subsequently ordered the government to re-examine the issue, prompting the Justice Department to seek alternative ways to proceed.
The Trump administration hasn’t detailed why it sought to replace the U.S. lawyers handling the lawsuit. The Washington Post, citing a person familiar with the matter, said that some of the original lawyers on the case had concerns about the way the government was handling it.
The Justice Department’s “mere expectation that withdrawal of current counsel will not cause any disruption is not good enough,” Furman wrote in an order Tuesday.