A federal appeals court has rejected a request from the Trump administration to block Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from being questioned under oath in lawsuits involving the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The order from the three-judge panel on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes just days before Ross is scheduled sit for the deposition in the cases challenging the Trump administration’s decision to include the question.
The court, however, put a temporary hold on Ross’s deposition to allow the parties to “seek relief from the Supreme Court.”
The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
“The district court’s order requiring the deposition of Secretary Ross does not amount to ‘a judicial usurpation of power or a clear abuse of discretion,’” the 2nd Circuit said in its order. “We find that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in authorizing extra-record discovery based on a preliminary showing of ‘bad faith or improper behavior.’”
“The District Court, which is intimately familiar with the voluminous record, applied controlling case law and made detailed factual findings supporting its conclusion that Secretary Ross likely possesses unique firsthand knowledge central to the Plaintiffs’ claims. As the District Court noted, deposition testimony by three of Secretary Ross’s aides indicated that only the Secretary himself would be able to answer the Plaintiffs’ questions," the order continued.
The Trump administration has been working to stop Ross and John Gore, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, from having to answer questions under oath about adding the citizenship question.
The Commerce Department announced in March the question would be included on the upcoming census to assist with better enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
The decision, though, prompted more than two dozen cities and states to file a lawsuit challenging the inclusion of the citizenship question and seeking to have it removed from the census questionnaire.