Published: Thu, July 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Judge blocks government lawyers from quitting census fight

Judge blocks government lawyers from quitting census fight

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.

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Justice Department from changing the team of lawyers representing the Trump administration in the contentious legal battle over its decision to add a question on USA citizenship to the 2020 decennial census.

"The court shares the concerns articulated in Judge Furman's well-reasoned order denying defendants" parallel motion in the related NY case that a shift in counsel at this late stage may be disruptive to an already complicated and expedited case", Hazel wrote.

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 Justice Department offered no explanation for why the lawyers were withdrawing and, on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said the government's request to switch lawyers was "patently deficient".

But President Trump later said he had ordered the departments to do "whatever necessary" to include the question, and pushed back against the notion that his administration had abandoned plans to do so. And yes, Trump wondered what the hell is going on, tweeting, "So now the Obama appointed judge on the Census case.won't let the Justice Department use the lawyers that it wants to use. Could this be a first?"

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"That's why they're fighting the census", she added.

Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues that the full House of Representatives will be moving ahead with a vote to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress after the administration failed to comply with subpoenas on the census question. 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". The printing began last week, but the Trump administration continues to fight to add the question.

The Justice Department then notified judges in three similar legal challenges that it planned to find a new legal path to adding the question to the census.

"As this court observed many months ago, this case has been litigated on the premise-based "in no small part" on Defendants" own "insist [ence]'-that the speedy resolution of Plaintiffs' claims is a matter of great private and public importance", he wrote.

"If anything, that urgency - and the need for efficient judicial proceedings - has only grown since that time", Furman said. "When you change lawyers, judges are skeptical", he said.

His filing put the new attorneys on notice that they will need to be "aware of and prepared to address potential conflicts between recent developments in this case and positions repeatedly taken before this Court by the withdrawing attorneys".

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