On November 5, trial will begin in Manhattan in the first of the six cases challenging the Commerce Department’s controversial decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. This trial combines two lawsuits: one brought by states, counties, and cities (New York v. United States Dep’t of Commerce) and the other by a coalition of organizations representing immigrant and minority communities (New York Immigration Coalition v. United States Dep’t of Commerce). The challengers are asking the trial court to rule that the citizenship question cannot be on the census form sent to every household in America in 2020.
Before trial, the court received nearly a dozen friend-of-the-court briefs from an array of civil rights groups, former government officials, businesses, social-science experts, and others. This short annotated guide summarizes each brief’s most prominent or unique points.
For more information on the citizenship question cases, visit our regularly updated case pages and calendar of upcoming hearings and deadlines. And for the latest on other challenges facing the 2020 Census, visit our census resource page.
Summary: This brief, filed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, challenges the Commerce Department’s claim that citizenship data derived from the decennial census is necessary for enforcing the Voting Rights Act. The Leadership Conference emphasizes that existing data sources have long been sufficient for VRA purposes, allowing both the Justice Department and civil rights organizations to successfully litigate hundreds of VRA claims. The brief further warns that the citizenship question will undercut the usefulness of census data for VRA purposes by inducing an undercount of minority groups. The Leadership Conference and law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP are co-counsel for this brief.
Brief of Former Census Bureau Directors in Support of Plaintiffs
Summary: This brief, filed on behalf of five former Census Bureau Directors from both Republican and Democratic administrations, explains how the Commerce Department’s decision to add the citizenship question departs both from standard Bureau procedures and the Bureau’s long-running opposition to such a question. The former Directors also flag the collateral damage that the question will inflict on congressional apportionment and other crucial matters. The law firm Mayer Brown LLP is counsel for this brief.
Summary: This brief, filed on behalf of Common Cause and a group of prominent Republican officials, explains that including the citizenship question on the census violates core constitutional commitments to counting all people—citizens and non-citizens alike—for congressional apportionment purposes. The law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP is counsel for this brief.
Brief of the American Statistical Association, American Sociological Association, and Population Association of America in Support of Plaintiffs
Summary: This brief, filed on behalf of several organizations representing statisticians and other social scientists, describes how the Census Bureau’s decision to add the citizenship question departed both from the Bureau’s long-standing practice and standard statistical procedures, such as pre-testing questionnaires and field tests. The brief further emphasizes the importance of accurate census data to public programs and academic research. The law firm Hogan Lovells is counsel for this brief.
Brief of Tech: NYC, Univision Communications Inc., Warby Parker, General Assembly, Topia, and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce in Support of Plaintiffs
Summary: This brief, filed on behalf of members of the business community, emphasizes the harms that inaccurate census data will inflict on business functions, such as marketing, product development, and operations. The amici also warn that these harms will grow only more severe in the coming decade as businesses become more data-driven. The law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP is counsel for this brief.
Brief of Norman Y. Mineta, the Sakamoto Sisters, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York, Inc., and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality in Support of Plaintiffs
Summary: This brief, filed on behalf of concerned Japanese-American citizens, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Fred T. Korematsu Center, describes the harmful impact that the citizenship question will have on the public’s trust in the 2020 Census. The brief highlights historical misuses of census data in World War I and the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II to urge the court to carefully probe the Commerce Department’s justification for adding the question. The Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic of the Seattle University School of Law, Council on American-Islamic Relations and the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP are co-counsels on this brief.
Brief of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Support of Plaintiffs
Summary: This brief, filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), explains that the Census Bureau failed to consider a multitude of privacy and security risks when deciding to include the citizenship question. As EPIC observes, the Bureau ignored not only the risk that personal data collected for the census could be transferred to other agencies and used for unrelated purposes, but also the data security risks of collecting such sensitive data on a large scale. EPIC is counsel for this brief.
Summary: This brief, filed on the behalf of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and other state legislators, describes the harmful impact that the citizenship question will have on their constituents in “hard to count” communities. The brief explains how a differential undercount will undermine equal political representation and threaten crucial state public services. The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, Jeffrey M. Wice, and Joan P. Gibbs are co-counsel for this brief.
Summary: This brief, filed by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, argues that the collection of citizenship data on the 2020 Census is “logical and appropriate” for VRA enforcement, particularly in smaller jurisdictions. The law firm Joseph Mooney Palztik LLP and the Public Interest Legal Foundation are co-counsel for this brief.