Judge refuses to allow DOJ to change lawyers in census case – By Daniel Chaitin & Jerry Dunleavy (Washington Examiner) / July 9 2019
A federal judge in New York refused the Justice Department’s effort to change its legal team in a fight over President Trump’s push to add a question about citizenship status onto the 2020 census because they did not provide a sufficient explanation.
“Defendants provide no reasons, let alone ‘satisfactory reasons,’ for the substitution of counsel,” wrote U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who is presiding over one of three lawsuits that aim to keep to the citizenship question off the census.
Furman said any future motions to withdraw would need to be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit.
“Any new motions to withdraw shall be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit from each counsel seeking to withdraw (1) stating ‘satisfactory reasons’ for withdrawing at this stage of the litigation and (2) in light of Plaintiffs’ forthcoming motion for sanctions … confirming that (a) he or she submits to the jurisdiction of this Court with respect to that motion and any future motions (or orders to show cause) regarding sanctions and (b) he or she will be available in the event that the Court requires his or her attendance at any future hearings regarding such motions or orders. In the event any new motion is filed, new counsel for Defendants shall also file an affidavit providing unequivocal assurances that the substitution of counsel will not delay further litigation of this case (or any future related case),” Furman wrote.
The decision comes one day after Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec announced the DOJ was switching up its legal team in the census legal fight. “As will be reflected in filings tomorrow in the census-related cases, the Department of Justice is shifting these matters to a new team of Civil Division lawyers going forward,” Kupec said in a statement.
“Since these cases began, the lawyers representing the United States in these cases have given countless hours to defending the Commerce Department and have consistently demonstrated the highest professionalism, integrity, and skill inside and outside the courtroom,” Kupec said. “The Attorney General appreciates that service, thanks them for their work on these important matters, and is confident that the new team will carry on in the same exemplary fashion as the cases progress.”
The attempt by the Justice and Commerce departments to add the question was struck down by a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision. After the Supreme Court blocked what it called “contrived” efforts to add the citizenship question, it looked like the Trump administration had given up on it, with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the DOJ saying last week that the Census Bureau would print the forms without the question.
But Trump tweeted that he’d asked the Commerce and Justice departments “to do whatever is necessary to bring this most vital of questions, and this very important case, to a successful conclusion.”
Soon after the DOJ announced it was bringing in a new legal team, Attorney General William Barr boasted of a new legal strategy for adding a question about citizenship status onto the 2020 census. “I think over the next day or two you’ll see what approach we’re taking,” Barr told reporters in South Carolina on Monday. “And I think it does provide a pathway for getting the question on the census.”