U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg has delayed two depositions of Trump administration officials that had been scheduled by a judge hearing a case over whether the 2020 Census can ask respondents about their citizenship.
WND reported last week the federal government had asked for a stay of orders from a lower court that would have compelled a wide-ranging interview with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
Critics of the citizenship question demanded to “probe the secretary’s mental state.”
The government asked Ginsburg, who hears emergency appeals from that part of the country, to at least delay them.
On Tuesday, she ordered that the deposition plans be stayed pending a response from opponents of the question or until a further order from her or the full court.
The questioning of President Trump’s appointee is unnecessary, the administration said. The government argued the Census previously included citizenship questions from 1820 to 1950, except for one time, and again from 1960 through 2000.
“Since 2005, the Census Bureau has included questions about citizenship and birthplace in detailed annual surveys sent to samples of the population,” the government said, arguing the challenge has no foundation.
The claim that “some households containing individuals who are unlawfully present will be deterred from responding (despite their legal duty to respond)” also is without merit, they said.
“The immediate dispute here is about whether respondents are entitled to probe Secretary Ross’s mental state – his subjective motivations – when he decided to reinstate the citizenship question. Secretary Ross consulted with many parties, including Census Bureau, Commerce Department, and Justice Department officials, before announcing his decision, and he set forth his reasons in a detailed memorandum backed by a voluminous administration record,” the filing states.
“Those reasons include the Justice Department’s view that citizenship data from the decennial census would be helpful to its enforcement duties under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
The Supreme Court, the filing argues, “has long recognized that an agency decisionmaker’s mental state is generally irrelevant to evaluating the legality of agency action … So too has this court recognized that compelling the testimony of a high-ranking government official – especially a member of the President’s Cabinet – is rarely if ever justified.”
“Secretary Ross set forth the reasons supporting his decision to reinstate a citizenship question in a detailed memorandum, and the government has provided an extensive administrative record in support of that determination.”
Ginsberg denied a similar request from the government, but the federal attorneys returned on Tuesday and she granted their request.
The critics complain the decision was made in “bad faith” and claim that since Ross overruled subordinates, the question was not “well tested” and, moreover, was “legally immaterial.”