A federal judge in New York ruled against the White House administrations decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ordered the administration to stop its plans to include the controversial question on forms for the upcoming national head count “without curing the legal defects” the judge wrote in his opinion released on Tuesday.
Furman’s decision marks a major transition in a legal battle that began shortly after the Trump administration announced last year that the 2020 census would include a controversial question about U.S. citizenship status. The added question was: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” All U.S. households have not been asked such a question on the census since 1950.
Furman commented that he does not expect his order to be the final word on the question’s fate. The district court ruling in New York is expected to be appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, ultimately, to the Supreme Court.
In addition to the two cases before Furman at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Trump’s administration is fighting five more lawsuits across the country filed by dozens of states, cities and other groups that want the question removed. A second trial over the question began earlier this month in California, and another is scheduled to begin in Maryland on Jan. 22.
The Supreme Court has already agreed to enter into a dispute over the evidence that can be considered for the lawsuits. The justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments in February on that issue, as well as on whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, can be questioned under oath by the plaintiffs’ attorneys about why he approved adding the question.
The administration has stood their ground arguing that the citizenship question was added because the Justice Department wants to use the responses to better enforce Voting Rights Act provisions. This act protects racial and language minorities from being discriminated against.
The lawsuits’ plaintiffs, however, have argued that the administration has been misleading the public.