After high court ruling, DOJ wants census challenges stopped

All further court challenges to the Trump administration’s numbers-crunching methods for the 2020 census should be suspended, Trump administration attorneys say

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Now that the Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to end the 2020 census count, the courts should not interfere with efforts to meet a year-end deadline for turning in numbers used for divvying up congressional seats by state, Department of Justice attorneys said in court papers ahead of a hearing Tuesday.

All further court challenges to the Trump administration’s numbers-crunching methods for the 2020 census should be suspended as the U.S. Census Bureau works toward turning in apportionment numbers by a congressionally-mandated Dec. 31 deadline, Trump administration attorneys said ahead of a hearing before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.

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Critics say that is not enough time.

Koh last month issued a preliminary injunction that allowed the head count to continue through Oct. 31 instead of Sept. 30, and the numbers-crunching to proceed through the end of April 2021 instead of Dec. 31. The district judge sided with a coalition of local governments and advocacy groups that had sued the Trump administration, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ended in September.

U.S. Census Director Steven Dillingham departs a census news conference to urge Arizonans to participate in the nation’s once-a-decade population count Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

An appellate court suspended Koh’s order as it relates to the numbers-crunching deadline at the end of the year, and the Supreme Court two weeks ago halted the entire preliminary injunction, allowing the field operations for the 2020 census to end.

Tuesday’s hearing is the first one on the case since the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“This Court and the parties previously expended extraordinary efforts to litigate and adjudicate Plaintiffs’ challenges at a breakneck pace only to have the Supreme Court rightly undo that hard work,” the Trump administration said in court papers. “There is no need to repeat that fruitless process.”

The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online on March 19, 2020 in San Anselmo, California. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Attorneys for the coalition of local governments and advocacy groups said ahead of Tuesday’s hearing that the Supreme Court ruling provided no guidance on the case since the justices did not offer an explanation for their decision, which does not conflict with any of the rulings from the lower courts on several issues.

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Because of that, the case should move forward toward a trial and final ruling by the district judge, especially since the litigation has raised questions about the thoroughness of the count and whether the Census Bureau can even meet the Dec. 31 deadline, the attorneys for the coalition said.

The census is used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets, in a process known as apportionment, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending annually.

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