The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Derrick Robinson, Lawyers’ Committee,, 240-473-3034

Federal Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law's Litigation Challenging 2020 Census Citizenship Question

Litigation against the Administration continues; request to take testimony of John Gore and other key officials granted


On Friday (Aug. 17), the United States District Court for the Northern District of California permitted a lawsuit challenging the 11th hour addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census to move forward. The lawsuit, filed by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of the City of San Jose, California and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), challenges the late change; alleging that the addition of a citizenship question will deter participation in the census, resulting in a significant undercount of immigrant communities and communities of color.

"We're pleased that Judge Seeborg recognized the concrete interests that our clients have in Secretary Ross's ill-considered addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census Questionnaire, and that all of our claims -- including those brought under the Constitution's Enumeration Clause -- may proceed," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We look forward to proving that the Secretary's action imperils the accuracy of the all-important Census and that his decision was unlawful and unconstitutional. Through the courts, we are working to hold this administration accountable for actions that undermine democracy."

The court denied the government's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that both of the plaintiffs , the City of San Jose and Black Alliance for Just Immigration, have clear standing to pursue their claims. The court also found that the plaintiffs have alleged a plausible injury in claiming that "the state of California's population includes large numbers of immigrants and non-citizens...and that logically, an appreciable undercount of those subgroups will have an outsized impact." As a result of the ruling, the lawsuit will proceed.

Judge Seeborg also granted the plaintiffs' request to conduct fact discovery in addition the administrative record. This ruling is critical as it will allow the plaintiffs to take testimony from key officials with relevant information such as John Gore, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and Karen Dunn Kelley, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Additional discovery will help the plaintiffs to uncover the true motivations behind the late addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

The lawsuit alleges that the citizenship question could result in an undercount of as many as 70,000 residents in the City of San Jose alone, which could result in a yearly loss of approximately $20 million in federal funding.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, Public Counsel with pro-bono support from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips filed the lawsuit on April 17, 2018. The defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit on June 21, 2018. In addition, the court also rejected a similar motion to dismiss that had been filed in litigation brought by the State of California.

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The Lawyers' Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar's leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity - work that continues to be vital today.

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