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Court Case

New York v. United States Department of Commerce

The State of New York is leading a coalition of states, cities, and mayors in a challenge to the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Last Updated: October 14, 2019
Published: August 13, 2019

Summary

The State of New York led a coalition of states, cities, and mayors in a challenge to the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. New York argued that the Department’s decision violated the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act.

This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and produced the first trial victory on the citizenship question issue. On June 27, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case blocking the citizenship question.

Case Background

The State of New York, sixteen states, seven cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors sued the Department of Commerce, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and the Census Bureau, arguing that the Department’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was unconstitutional and otherwise illegal.

New York and its co-plaintiffs alleged that adding a citizenship question would deter participation in the census and cause an undercount, undermining the accuracy of the 2020 Census and jeopardizing the funding that they receive.

The suit contended that adding a citizenship question would undermine the federal government’s constitutional obligation to conduct an “actual enumeration” of the national population. The suit further argued that the Commerce Department’s decision was “not in accordance with law,” “contrary to constitutional right,” “beyond [the Department and the Census Bureau’s] statutory authority,” and “arbitrary and capricious,” all in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

New York asked the court to, among other things, enjoin the Commerce Department from including the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

On July 26, the court granted the government's motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part, dismissing the plaintiffs' claims under the Enumeration Clause, but permitting their claims under the APA and Due Process Clause to proceed. 

Bench trial was held between November 5, 2018 and November 27, 2018. The court consolidated this case with New York Immigration Coal. v. Dep't of Commerce for purposes of that trial. 

The district court ruled on January 15, 2019 for the plaintiffs on their APA claims, and ordered the Commerce Department to remove a citizenship question from the 2020 Census. 

The federal government appealed that decision directly to the Supreme Court. On June 27, 2019, the Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding in part the district court’s decision striking down the citizenship question.

On July 11, 2019, the federal government announced that it would abandon its pursuit of the citizenship question.

The district court is now considering, among other things, claims that the federal government’s attorneys and witnesses should be sanctioned for their actions in the case.

Key Documents

District Court

Amicus Briefs Submitted at Motion to Dismiss Phase

Amicus Briefs Submitted at Trial Stage 

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Case No. 18-2652, re: Extra-Record Discovery and John Gore Deposition)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Case No. 18-2856, re: Extra-Record Discovery and Wilbur Ross Deposition)

U.S. Supreme Court (Case No. 18A375, re: Extra-record Discovery and Depositions)

U.S. Supreme Court (Case No. 18-557, re: Extra-record Discovery and Depositions) 

Amicus Briefs

U.S. Supreme Court (Case No. 18-966, re: Merits of the Citizenship Question) 

Amicus Briefs Regarding Granting Certiorari 

Amicus Briefs in Support of Commerce Department 

Amicus Briefs in Support of New York et al.