Justice Department asks SCOTUS to consider equal protection claim in citizenship question case

The United States Department of Justice filed a request with the United States Supreme Court on June 25 asking the court to broaden the scope of Department of Commerce v. New York—a case challenging the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census—in order to consider new equal protection claims.
 
Plaintiffs in a separate pending challenge to the citizenship question, La Union del Pueblo Entero v. Ross, raised equal protection claims under the Fifth Amendment in light of new information derived from a deceased Republican consultant’s hard drive. The information, according to plaintiffs, suggests that the citizenship question was added in order to gain a Republican electoral advantage. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated that he approved the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 census at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. 
 
Judge George Jarrod Hazel of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, who ruled against the citizenship question in La Union del Pueblo Entero v. Ross on constitutional and procedural grounds, issued an order on June 19 stating that the new evidence could warrant reconsideration of the case. On June 25, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit remanded the case for reconsideration by Hazel.
 
The Justice Department responded to the Fourth Circuit’s decision by requesting that the United States Supreme Court also consider the equal protection claim in Department of Commerce v. New York, which challenges the citizenship question on constitutional and procedural grounds. “The Fourth Circuit’s order underscores the need for this Court to address the equal protection claim … so that the lawfulness of the Secretary’s decision can be fully and finally resolved,” wrote Solicitor General Noel Fransisco.
 
The United States Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in Department of Commerce v. New York by the end of June. If the court chooses not to consider the equal protection claim, Hazel could issue an injunction against the citizenship question in La Union del Pueblo Entero v. Ross on equal protection grounds and return the citizenship question challenge before the high court.
 



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Caitlin Styrsky

Caitlin Styrsky is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at caitlin.styrsky@ballotpedia.org

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