Wilbur Ross, U.S. commerce secretary. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

Judge Orders Wilbur Ross to Be Deposed in Census Lawsuit

(Bloomberg) -- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross must sit for a deposition in a lawsuit challenging the department’s decision to ask U.S. residents about their citizenship status as part of the census, a federal judge in New York ruled, saying his "intent and credibility are directly at issue."

Advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and more than a dozen states, cities and counties sued the department in April over Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census. They claim the move discriminates against immigrants and will reduce the accuracy of the count by reducing participation.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman on Friday said Ross has first-hand knowledge related to the claims and was "personally and directly involved in the decision, and the unusual process leading to it, to an unusual degree."

The case has already forced the department to surrender documents showing that Ross chose to include the question before consulting with the Justice Department, despite his testimony that the decision was made at its request. Furman acknowledged that the Commerce Department is likely to challenge his ruling, noting that the deposition will not take place immediately due to scheduling and logistical matters, giving the defendants ample time to appeal.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, one of the plaintiffs, said on Twitter that her office "will keep working to ensure a full and fair census."

Judge Orders Wilbur Ross to Be Deposed in Census Lawsuit
NY AG Underwood@NewYorkStateAG
#BREAKING: A federal judge just granted our motion to depose Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross—part of our lawsuit over the Trump admin’s plan to demand citizenship status on the #2020Census. We will keep working to ensure a full and fair Census.

Sent via Twitter for iPhone.

View original tweet.

The Commerce Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision.

“Secretary Ross testified to Congress that he decided to add a citizenship question to the census because the Department of Justice requested it,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “We look forward to getting answers under oath about the Trump administration’s real agenda: attacking immigrant communities.”

The case is New York v U.S. Department of Commerce, 18-cv-2921, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.