WASHINGTON – A second federal judge refuses to let Justice Department lawyers withdraw from a lawsuit over the government's plan to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census form, which is sent to every household.
Judge George Hazel of Maryland, Federal District Court, said in an order Wednesday that he "can not understand" how a change in the government's legal team could avoid having an effect on the proceedings in his court, unless the Department of Justice can ensure an orderly transition. .
Hazel oversees a lawsuit, separate from the case before the Supreme Court, in which opponents say that asking the question on the form would constitute discrimination. This case is now in the discovery phase, during which lawyers from both sides gather evidence.
On Monday, the Justice Department announced that lawyers who had worked on this case and another in federal court in New York would pull out and that a brand new team of lawyers would be brought in. withdraw but gave them a chance to try again, provided they give a better explanation of why they wanted to withdraw from the trial.
Hazel issued a similar order, stating that the current team of government lawyers would not be allowed unless the case "ensured an orderly transition between retiring lawyers and new lawyers. This requires more than the efforts of the new DOJ team, but the involvement and availability of the lawyers who are retiring. "
Attorney General William Barr said Monday that he subscribed to the idea of creating new teams of attorneys. Given the decision of the Department of Justice to go forward, "I can understand if they are not interested in participating in this phase," he said.
Officials from the Department of Justice have privately stated that Barr acted before lawyers could formally object to further work on the issue.
The Trump administration continues to print census forms without asking the question of citizenship. However, President Donald Trump and Mr. Barr announced that an announcement would soon be announced, which will explain how the administration plans to make the citizenship issue an integral part of the census process.