Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether to question official in 2020 census lawsuit

U.S. Supreme Court

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The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear oral arguments in an ongoing battle over whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross should be questioned under oath about his decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The Washington Post, SCOTUSBlog and the Hill reported that oral arguments on that subject will be held February 19.

The underlying dispute is over whether the decision to ask people about their citizenship as part of the census was politically motivated. The Commerce Department, which oversees the census, says it was added at the request of the Justice Department as a way to gather data that could help enforce the Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs in the six lawsuits challenging it say the decision was political—asking about citizenship will discourage immigrant households from participating at all, they say.

That will likely result in an undercount in immigrant-heavy areas; chief Census Bureau scientist John Abowd has testified at a deposition that the question could reduce the noncitizen household response rate by 5 percent or more. Plaintiffs say it’s not a coincidence that those areas tend to vote for Democrats. An undercount would result in fewer Congressional representatives in those areas, and likely the loss of some federal resources.

The plaintiffs in the case the Supreme Court took want to question Ross and John Gore, the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, about information outside the written record. During discovery, they found evidence that Ross consulted former White House advisor Stephen Bannon and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach prior to making the decision.

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The federal government, opposing the request, characterized it as “an intrusive fishing expedition” and said the case should rely only on the agency’s records.

Two of the cases are consolidated and currently in trial in New York federal court. The Supreme Court declined to block that trial earlier this month. In October, the high court did block a deposition of Ross, but permitted a deposition of Gore.


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Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A. is president and managing partner of Allentown-based ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, Inc., a local search and digital marketing agency that offers clients lead generation, local seo and Google Maps Domination. Ed has been a digital entrepreneur since 1994, having discovered very early the opportunities the Internet offered. After having spent over two decades helping attorneys grow their practice, Ed joined the staff of ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing as President and Managing Partner, where he is expanding the agency’s cutting-edge services to the legal market. A true marketing futurist, Ed's vast experience working directly with attorneys has given him a unique perspective on law firm marketing not found in many other digital marketing agencies. Ed has reshaped the offerings of ForLawFirmsOnly to focus on growing law firms through a holistic approach to digital marketing evident in the reformulated lead generation processes now in place. Want to learn more about ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, their lead generation programs, or just talk to Ed about his visions for helping law firms grow? Call him at 855-943-8736.

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