Supreme Court Drops February Argument on Census Citizenship Question

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court scrapped plans for a Feb. 19 argument involving the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The move came after a federal trial judge in New York barred the Commerce Department this week from including the question.

The Supreme Court had planned to consider a preliminary issue in the case. Friday’s decision to drop the February session doesn’t preclude the court from scheduling arguments later this spring if the Trump administration seeks review.

In his ruling on Jan. 15, District Judge Jesse Furman said that in deciding to include the citizenship question, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross committed a “veritable smorgasbord” of violations of the federal law that governs administrative agencies.

The Trump administration could ask the Supreme Court to take the unusual step of directly reviewing Furman’s ruling instead of waiting for a federal appeals court decision. The Census Bureau has said it needs to start printing questionnaires by June.

Advocacy organizations and a New York-led group of states, cities and counties are suing, saying the citizenship question discriminates against immigrants and will reduce accuracy by lessening participation. A census undercount in areas with large numbers of non-citizens could shift congressional districts and federal dollars away from those communities.

The Feb. 19 argument had been expected to concern what evidence Furman could use in making his decision. The practical importance of that argument session became less clear once the judge had released his ruling.

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