Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has temporarily blocked lower court orders for depositions by two senior Trump administration officials in the multiple lawsuits over the new question about U.S. citizenship status on the 2020 census.
By Hansi Lo Wang
The ruling comes after U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed a request Tuesday night for the high court to permanently block the court-ordered depositions by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Justice Department official John Gore, as well as requests for internal documents.
After the lawsuits’ plaintiffs file a reply to the administration’s request by 4 p.m. ET Thursday, Justice Ginsburg can either make a ruling herself or refer the request to the full Supreme Court.
The Trump administration’s request to the high court comes amid a last-minute scramble by its attorneys to stop Ross and Gore from having to sit for questioning under oath in the two lead lawsuits in New York. Evidence gathering for the two lawsuits is set to end this week.
All of this legal back-and-forth is building up to the start of the first potential trial over the citizenship question, which is set to begin on Nov. 5, the day before the midterm elections, at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Lawyers for the dozens of states, cities and organizations suing the Trump administration were set to question Gore on Wednesday and Ross on Thursday. Ross approved adding the citizenship question to the census as the head of the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau. Gore leads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division that, the administration argues, needs responses to the citizenship question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act’s protections against discrimination of racial and language minorities.
Earlier on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration’s effort to stop Ross’ deposition, which the judges kept temporarily on hold to allow either the administration or the lawsuits’ plaintiffs “to seek relief from the Supreme Court,” according to their order.