Judge blocks Justice Department from swapping lawyers in census question case


(Washington Examiner) Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the Justice Department has a new legal strategy for adding a question about citizenship status onto the 2020 census, according to a new report.

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.

"This requires more than just the effort of the new DOJ team, but the involvement and availability of the withdrawing attorneys", he continued. A NY judge made the decision Tuesday, saying the request is "patently deficient".

U.S. District Judge George Hazel of Maryland wrote Wednesday that "as a practical matter, the Court can not fathom how it would be possible, at this juncture, for a wholesale change in Defendants' representation not to have some impact on the orderly resolution of these proceedings unless Defendants provide assurance of an orderly transition between the withdrawing attorneys and new counsel".

He said he would allow two of the 11 attorneys to withdraw because they now had different jobs.

"If anything, that urgency-and the need for efficient judicial proceedings-has only grown since that time".

Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco said the department declined to comment on both of the rulings.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been fighting to block the question from appearing on the census forms, praised the judge's order.

The Justice Department is replacing the legal team that's working on the issue by putting in a new team of career and politically appointed attorneys.

But the department reversed itself after Donald Trump promised to keep trying to add the question and notified judges in three similar legal challenges that it planned to find a new legal path to adding the question to the census.

A statement announcing the abrupt switch did not provide an explanation for the decision, but the move has prompted speculation that Justice Department lawyers assigned to the case refused to come up with a new rationale for getting the question on the census after repeatedly citing voting rights efforts in court.

But nine other lawyers were ordered to remain on the case - for now.

"I think that judges like Furman and Hazel are sick of DOJ and Trump perverting the federal justice system and having a client like Trump who places counsel in compromising situations", Tobias said. Almost two weeks ago, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the plans to add the census question, saying the administration's justification for adding the question "seems to have been contrived".

Chief Justice John Roberts joined with his liberal peers in delivering the high court's opinion.

"The Supreme Court did not rule in their favor because they said the administration did not give sufficient evidence as to why the census citizenship question should be there", she said.

Evidence has also emerged that suggests adding the question may be part of a Republican effort to try and redistrict communities that would generally swing Democratic, hoping the citizenship question would lead to an undercount in Hispanic populations.

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