U.S. Supreme Court declines to rule on merits of census case

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building.

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued an unsigned 6-3 opinion in Trump v. New York. The case was argued on Nov. 30, 2020, and concerned congressional apportionment following the 2020 U.S. Census. The U.S. government asked SCOTUS to consider if the president could order the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to exclude individuals residing unlawfully in the U.S. from the census’ apportionment base.

In a 6-3 per curiam opinion, in which the authorship is not indicated, the court vacated the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York’s ruling. The court held the coalition of state and local governments and NGOs did not have standing—the legal right to sue—in this case. The court did not rule on the merits.

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Breyer argued the plaintiffs had standing and that court precedent, law, and historical practice “demonstrate that aliens without lawful status cannot be excluded from the decennial census solely on account of that status. The Government’s effort to remove them from the apportionment base is unlawful, and I believe this Court should say so.”

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