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For Now, No Winding Down Of Decennial Count In LA As Census Lawsuit Moves Forward

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A lawsuit aimed at blocking the Trump administration's decision to shorten the 2020 Census moved forward today, as orders from a federal judge this weekend for census officials to not wind down the count remained in place.

In her latest action, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh asked lawyers from both sides to submit arguments as to whether the government should release documents detailing the decision making behind the moved-up end date.

If the judge decides tomorrow that the government must produce documents, they'd have to be released by Thursday.

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Plaintiffs, which include the National Urban League and several city and county governments, among them the City of Los Angeles, had asked the Census Bureau to produce documents showing how the agency decided to shorten the 2020 Census. When a lawyer for the federal Department of Justice said the government doesn’t have written documentation, Koh wasn’t convinced.

"I do not understand the government's refusal to be transparent about what they have decided to do," Koh said.

The lawsuit argues that U.S. Census Bureau officials acted arbitrarily and capriciously when they decided to abruptly cut the 2020 Census short, from the planned deadline of October 31, to a new early deadline September 30th.

The plaintiffs also said that cutting the census short could cause irreparable harm by miscalculating population totals — something that could skew how seats in congress are distributed and change where billions of federal dollars go.

Whether or not documents are produced this week, a top Census Bureau official is expected to explain the bureau’s decision to cut the count short at a hearing set for next Tuesday.

The temporary restraining order put in place by Koh late last week is set to expire next Thursday, when another hearing is scheduled for oral arguments.

That means that the Census Bureau is not allowed to wind down operations, such as laying off census takers or change any field operations until at least that date. Koh could decide to extend and replace it with a longer-lasting order.

In L.A., prior to the order, some census workers had begun getting layoff notices.

"A full Census count, void of political interference, is vital if Angelenos are to receive our fair share of federal resources and political representation," L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement Saturday, after Judge Koh granted the temporary restraining order based on the plaintiffs' concerns.

In a document filed with the District Court, the Census Bureau said it would comply with the ruling. An agency director shared directions sent to field staff advising them not to release any more enumerators unless they’re producing low-quality work, or other specific conduct problems.

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