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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)