DOJ Turns To SCOTUS To Halt Depos Of Top Officials In Census Citizenship Case

on June 22, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland.
Win McNamee/Getty Images North America

The Trump administration Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to block lower courts’ orders that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and John Gore, a top Justice Department official, sit for depositions in a case challenging the addition of a citizenship question to the census form.

The petition — filed to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has oversight of the appeals court circuit where the relevant case is being litigated — also asks for a pause in the orders demanding the administration provide certain internal documents beyond what it has already turned over. Gore and Ross are slated to be deposed next week.

The administration is asking the Supreme Court to halt the Gore and Ross depositions, as well as discovery, while it prepares to appeal all three issues on the merits to the high court. Similar applications at lower court levels for blocking the depositions and the discovery have been unsuccessful.

The case, a consolidation of multiple lawsuits brought against the administration in New York, could potentially go to trial as soon as Nov. 5.

“Secretary Ross’s deposition is unlikely to add any material details, all the more so because much of his testimony will likely be privileged,” the petition, filed by Solicitor General Noel Francisco, said.

The administration, in announcing its addition of the citizenship question to the census form, said that it was doing so at the request of the Justice Department. However, the internal records that have been turned over during the litigation contradict that explanation. Critics of the question argue that adding will shift political power and federal funding away from immigrant communities, because they will be spooked from participating in the survey.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of New York has ordered the depositions of both Ross and Gore. An appeals court has affirmed his Gore order, which was taken as a sign that it would also back the order for a Ross deposition.

When the administration asked Furman to pause his orders last week, while they were appealed to the Supreme Court court, he called the request “frivolous—if not outrageous.” The appeals court also declined the request to pause the orders.

In Wednesday’s filing, Francisco argued that deposing Gore, who was involved in drafting a letter from the Justice Department requesting the citizenship question, “would achieve no legitimate purpose.”

Though the petition was filed directly to Ginsburg, it is likely that it will be referred to the entire Supreme Court, which is down a member due to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

Read the petition below:

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