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

For Immediate Release August 21, 2018

Litigation Against the Administration Continues; Request to Take Testimony of John Gore and Other Key Officials Granted

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, August 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 the plaintiffs have alleged a plausible injury in claiming “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.

To view order, click here.

Find background information on the April 17 lawsuit, click here.

About The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers' Committee, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The Lawyers' Committee celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 as it continued its quest of "Moving America Toward Justice." The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment, voting, education and environmental justice.

For more information about the Lawyers' Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

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