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A second judge blocks the request for a change of counsel in a census case

A second federal judge on Wednesday rejected the Justice Department's plan to form a legal team that was fighting to include a citizenship issue in the 2020 census.

The latest order, made by US District Judge George Hazel in Maryland, posed yet another hurdle, as the Trump administration tried to find a legal way to include the issue, even after the Supreme Court had prevented, at least temporarily. The order was made just a day after another federal judge in Manhattan made a similar decision, saying the Justice Department could not replace nine lawyers so late in the conflict without explaining so much. satisfactory why he did it.

The decisions are a blow to the Department of Justice and Attorney General William Barr, who personally approved the change in the litigation team. A third federal judge, who is hearing another census case in San Francisco, has not yet ruled on the Justice Department's request to change his attorneys.

Justice Ministry spokeswoman Kelly Laco declined to comment on Wednesday's decision.

The government has already started the process of printing the census questionnaire without this issue. Over the past week, the Trump administration has sent mixed signals – first of all by saying that the question was asked before the president tweeted that his administration "absolutely advance" with efforts to include it.

In an interview earlier this week, Barr said he saw a legal path to follow and that the administration would take action in the coming days, which, in his opinion, would allow the Government to add the controversial census query.

The new team came about after James Burnham, a senior litigation attorney at the Ministry of Justice, told Barr that several members of the team preferred not to continue, the attorney general said. Burnham told him it would be a "logical break point" because a new position was going to be discussed soon, he added.


In the Maryland case, the judge stated that he agreed that Barr had the power to assign lawyers to specific cases, but cautioned that this "would not create a clean slate" and that any new team must be ready to answer questions about court filings. The judge said that the Justice Ministry could rephrase its request, but that court documents should include additional information on how the agency could ensure an orderly transition between lawyers and prove that it would not cause any damage. delay in the case.

The judge stated that he "could not understand" how it would be possible to completely change the litigation team without having "some impact on the orderly resolution of these proceedings" unless the Ministry of Justice Justice does not provide these assurances.


The Census Bureau's own experts said that requiring citizenship information would discourage immigrants from participating and result in a less accurate count. This, in turn, would redistribute money and political power to Democrat-led cities where immigrants tend to regroup to become whiter rural areas, where Republicans are doing well.

The Trump administration has said it wants the issue included to help enforce the right to vote, which protects access for minority voters to the ballot box. But Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four most liberal members of the Supreme Court in last month's decision and was openly skeptical of this justification.

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