Judge Rules 2020 Census Citizenship Question Unlawful, Unconstitutional


In response to a lawsuit filed by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Public Counsel on behalf of the city of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Judge Richard Seeborg of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California today ruled that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross efforts to place a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census violate the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Judge Seeborg found that Secretary Ross and the other defendants violated the U.S. Constitution when they decided to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census despite clear evidence that the question would result in an undercount of minority and immigrant communities, said Manatt partner John Libby. We are pleased with this ruling, and look forward to defending it, including in the Supreme Court.

In his decision, Judge Seeborg stated that the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census threatens the very foundation of our democratic system. Agreeing with the teams argument that the questions addition would be arbitrary and capricious, Judge Seeborg noted that the question would directly violate multiple sections of the 1976 Census Act. In addition, he explained that the question would violate the U.S. Constitution because of the specific impact it would have on noncitizen and Latino communities, and that efforts to amend the effects through non-response-follow-up could in fact exacerbate the undercount of those populations.

The lawsuit was filed in April 2018 immediately after Wilbur Ross announced that the 2020 Census would include a question asking the citizenship status of every respondent. It argued that the addition of a citizenship question would depress participation rates among immigrant communities and communities of color, resulting in a significant undercount.

About Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP:

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP is one of the nations leading law and consulting firms, with offices strategically located in California (Los Angeles, Orange County, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Sacramento), New York (New York City and Albany), Chicago and Washington, D.C. The firm represents a sophisticated client baseincluding Fortune 500, middle-market and emerging companiesacross a range of practice areas and industry sectors. For more information, visit www.manatt.com.

About the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 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. Now in its 56th year, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to Move America Toward Justice. The principal mission of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. Learn more at www.lawyerscommittee.org.

About Public Counsel:

Public Counsel is the nations largest pro bono law firm, with a staff of more than 120 attorneys, social workers, and intake specialists and the support of 5,000 pro bono partners from the nations top law firms, leading law schools and major corporations. Public Counsels activities are far-ranging and impact a wide spectrum of people who live at or below the poverty level. Our attorneys are national experts on immigration, veterans benefits, child welfare, nonprofit law and school discipline, among other areas.

About the Black Alliance for Just Immigration:

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration is the leading black immigrant rights organization in the U.S., representing nearly 10 million black immigrants and refugees. BAJI combats structural racism so that black immigrants and African-Americans can achieve racial, social and economic justice.

Angel Fahy, 212.704.1994
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP