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Court Case

San Jose v. Ross

The City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce claiming that the Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census violates the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and produced the second trial victory on the citizenship question issue.

Last Updated: October 14, 2019
Published: July 15, 2019

Summary

The City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce arguing that the Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census violated the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act.

This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and produced the second trial victory on the citizenship question issue. On June 27, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion blocking the citizenship question in a related case, New York v. United States Department of Commerce. The judge in this case subsequently issued an injunction permanently preventing the Commerce Department from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Case Background

The City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) sued the Department of Commerce, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Census Bureau, and acting Census Director Ron Jarmin over the Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The plaintiffs alleged that adding the question would exacerbate historic undercounts in African-American, Latino, and other minority communities, leading to losses in congressional representation and federal funding for San Jose and causing BAJI to divert resources to address census issues.

Because the addition of the question would depress census responses, the complaint contended, the decision to add it violated the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that the government conduct an “actual enumeration” of the nation’s entire population. The plaintiffs also contended that adding the question would inevitably lead to a violation of the government’s federal constitutional duty to apportion congressional seats based on the “whole number of persons” residing in each state. Finally, the complaint contended that the government violated the Administrative Procedure Act’s bars on unlawful and arbitrary agency decision-making by, among other things, inadequately testing the effects of adding the citizenship question on its ability to perform a fair and accurate count.

The court consolidated the discovery schedule in this case with the schedule in another citizenship-question suit, State of California v. Ross.

On August 17, the court denied the government's motion to dismiss, allowing the plaintiffs to proceed on their Enumeration Clause claim, their Apportionment Clause claim, and their Administrative Procedure Act claims. The court also granted the plaintiffs discovery beyond the administrative record.

During the motion to dismiss briefing, the Brennan Center filed an amicus brief with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, Muslim Advocates, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, NALEO Educational Fund, et al., supporting the plaintiffs in their efforts to block the citizenship question.

The court denied the government's motion for summary judgment and the plaintiffs' motion for a partial summary judgment, allowing the case to proceed to trial. The bench trial began on January 7, 2019. 

The district court ruled on March 6, 2019 for the plaintiffs on their APA and Enumeration Clause claims, and ordered the Commerce Department to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census. 

On June 28, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the district court’s decision and remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit for further consideration in light of its June 27, 2019 opinion striking down the citizenship question in New York v. United States Department of Commerce.

On July 11, 2019, the federal government announced that it would abandon its pursuit of the citizenship question. The judge in this case subsequently issued an injunction permanently preventing the Commerce Department from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Key Documents

District Court

Brennan Center Filings

Filings, Orders and Opinions

U.S. Supreme Court (Case No. 18-1214)