The United States Supreme Court agreed on February 15, 2019, to hear a case challenging the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Oral argument is scheduled for late April 2019.
Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a ruling in the consolidated case on January 15, 2019, holding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by including a question regarding citizenship status in the 2020 census. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) appealed Furman’s decision to the United States Supreme Court. DOJ requested that the court bypass an appellate court decision in order to issue a ruling in time for the 2020 census.
Judge Furman stated in his decision that Ross had “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices.”
In addition to concerns about administrative procedure, the plaintiffs had also argued that Ross violated the equal protection component of the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process Clause because his actions were “motivated by invidious discrimination,” according to the ruling. Furman, however, held that the due process claims fell short because the administrative record in the case did not demonstrate discrimination as a motivating factor for Ross’ decision.
The case consolidated two legal challenges before the Southern District of New York: State of New York, et al. v. United States Department of Commerce, et al. and New York Immigration Coalition, et al. v. United States Department of Commerce, et al. The plaintiffs in the cases included a coalition of 18 states and the District of Columbia, fifteen cities and counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, and a group of advocacy organizations.