Late on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked an order forcing the Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross to be questioned by lawyers this week for states suing over his decision of asking respondents to the 2020 census whether they are citizens.
In a brief order which was issued on Tuesday night, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put the looming depositions of Ross and John Gore, a top Justice Department official on hold while the high court further considers the government’s request to stop the officials from questioning.
Earlier on Tuesday, a New York-based federal appeals court had rejected the government’s bid to stop the depositions. Gore’s deposition was scheduled for Wednesday morning. Ross was to be questioned in this matter on Thursday.
The dispute will also test the Supreme Court’s views on the level of deference, judges should give a president’s cabinet members and various other high-ranking officials.
This comes just as President Donald Trump’s new appointee to the high court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh heard his first arguments on Tuesday morning.
The Trump team has been vigorously contesting a Sept. 21 ruling by the U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan that had ordered Ross, whose department oversees the Census Bureau, to face a deposition as his “credibility and intent are directly at issue” in the litigation.
The lawsuit includes 18 states and a number of cities and counties and is spearheaded by Democratic officials.
The U.S. Constitution has provisions which mandates a census every 10 years. This is used to allocate seats in Congress and distribute millions of dollars in federal funds.
Critics of adding a question on citizenship to the census have said that it will deter people in immigrant communities from participating, which will disproportionately affect Democratic-leaning states.
The Justice Department has told the Supreme Court that Furman exceeded his authority in ordering the depositions and the states should be barred to probe Ross’s “mental processes” over the citizenship question.