Trump lawyer: Census could be done if not for court meddling

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FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, a sign promoting Native American participation in the U.S. census is displayed as Selena Rides Horse enters information into her phone on behalf of a member of the Crow Indian Tribe in Lodge Grass, Montana. A complete count of Montanas households could come with a big reward: a second seat in Congress and millions of federal dollars annually. But the 2020 census deadline remains in flux, making it uncertain if census takers will finish counting the vast, rural state. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Trump administration on Monday asked appellate judges to immediately suspend a lower court's order requiring the 2020 census to continue through October, saying decisions by the U.S. Census Bureau over how to conduct the nation's head count shouldn't be subject to “judicial second-guessing."

An attorney for the Trump administration urged the panel of three Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges in San Francisco to suspend U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh's injunction from last month. Sopan Joshi said the head count needed to end Monday in order for the bureau to meet a year-end deadline for turning in numbers used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets in a process known as apportionment.

Joshi, assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, asked the judges to issue a decision on Monday, or “as promptly as possible," so the Trump administration can have time to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, if need be.

The judges said several hours after the virtual hearing that they would issue a ruling no later than Wednesday afternoon.

Koh's injunction last month suspended a Sept. 30 deadline for ending the head count as well as a Dec. 31 deadline for turning in apportionment numbers. Her order reverted the deadlines to those of a Census Bureau plan, announced in April in response to the pandemic, that would end field operations on Oct. 31 and report apportionment numbers at the end of April 2021.

Koh also struck down an Oct. 5 end date that the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, had pushed after the injunction, saying it violated her order. A previous appellate panel had refused to suspend the order.

The judge sided with civil rights groups and local governments that had sued the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ended in September.

The Trump administration says the judge's decision ignores the congressionally-mandated deadline requiring the Census Bureau to turn in apportionment numbers by Dec. 31. They also said the local governments and civil rights groups failed to show that accuracy will be compromised if the 2020 census ends early enough for the data to be analyzed before the end of the year.