A federal judge hearing lawsuits on the government’s effort to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census on Tuesday blocked the Department of Justice motion to withdraw lawyers without providing satisfactory reasons for the move.
Judge Jesse Furman said in a court order that the motion was “patently deficient” as the Trump administration failed to produce any reason for the switch. His order does not stop the new legal team from entering the case but blocks the old one from being replaced.
“Defendants provide no reasons, let alone “satisfactory reasons”, for the substitution of counsel,” said Furman in his ruling. “And as to the second factor, Defendants’ mere “expect[ation] that withdrawal of current counsel will [not] cause any disruption” is not good enough, particularly given the circumstances of this case.”
Furman wrote in his order that any such future decisions must be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit from each attorney stating the reasons for his or her withdrawal, Politico informs.
The move to assign a new team on the case was announced by the Justice Department on Sunday, which did not give a reason for the change. The announcement came amid pledges by President Donald Trump to press on with attempts to add the citizenship question to the census after such efforts were previously blocked by the Supreme Court.
In its ruling last month, the Supreme Court said that the administration’s stated rationale to include the question was a mere “distraction” rather than an “explanation.”
Its ruling sent the case back to the lower courts and since then three judges have blocked the attempt to add the question to the 2020 census. Those opposing the addition of the question say it would only lead to immigrants not answering truthfully, which in turn could diminish political power and jeopardize federal funding.
President Trump responded to the ruling on Tuesday, tweeting, “So now the Obama appointed judge on the Census case (Are you a Citizen of the United States?) won’t let the Justice Department use the lawyers that it wants to use. Could this be a first?”