DOJ Swaps Out Lawyers In The Citizenship/Census Case

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, Immigration and Xenophobia, Supreme Court, Voter Suppression & Voter SecurityLeave a Comment

The Department of Justice switched up the team of lawyers representing the Trump administration in its push to get a citizenship question on the 2020 census, according to the Washington Post. 

The DOJ announced the decision in a statement after the Post asked the department about the move. A person familiar with the matter told the Post that some career lawyers within the department had concerns over how the case has been handled.

“As will be reflected in filings tomorrow in the census-related cases, the Department of Justice is shifting these matters to a new team of Civil Division lawyers going forward,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told the Post in a statement. “Since these cases began, the lawyers representing the United States in these cases have given countless hours to defending the Commerce Department and have consistently demonstrated the highest professionalism, integrity and skill inside and outside the courtroom. The attorney general appreciates that service, thanks them for their work on these important matters and is confident that the new team will carry on in the same exemplary fashion as the cases progress.”

A DOJ official told Buzzfeed that lawyers from the department’s Consumer Protection Branch were stepping in to represent the administration in the case. Previously, DOJ Federal Programs lawyers — who specialize in cases like the citizenship question case — were defending the administration’s move to change the census.

The change comes as the Trump administration pushes forward with its effort to find a legal route to including the citizenship question on the 2020 census, a move championed by President Trump himself.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision blocking Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from including the citizenship question on the 2020 census. Last week, the DOJ confirmed to TPM that the 2020 census had been sent to the printer without the citizenship question, signaling the Trump administration would back off of it’s legal battle over the question for the time being given print deadlines for the census.

But just after the apparent back-down, Trump unleashed a string of tweets arguing his DOJ and Commerce Department were looking for a way to get the question on the census.

Trump has hinted that he might consider an executive order. On Friday, the Justice Department asked for more time to determine a “new” reason to include the question.

I’m not sure what switching out the lawyers means. I suspect his original lawyers don’t want to deal with this any more.