District Court in Census Case Sanctions DOJ For Failing to Produce Relevant Documents as to Reason for Adding Citizenship Question; Declines Sanctions for Possible DOJ Officials’ Lying, Because Plaintiffs Got All the Relief They Wanted at Supreme Court

You can read the 23-page ruling here.

Two snippets:

“In other words, Defendants’ failure to produce the documents was caused by a lapse that would make a first-year litigation associate wince.”..

At the end of the day, the NGO Plaintiffs’ allegations of misconduct merely reinforce their overall theory of this case: that Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census questionnaire was not made for the reasons he gave. With newly-discovered evidence in hand, the NGO Plaintiffs now argue that Secretary Ross’s decision was even more pretextual than they had been able to show in the first instance. But even if these allegations are true, and even if Defendants’ misconduct would otherwise have been sanctionable, this is a case in which, for the most part, “the proper remedy is exactly what happened at trial.” Ideal Steel Supply Corp. v. Anza, No. 02-CV-4788 (RMB), 2013 WL6912681, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 23, 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiffs tested the credibility of Defendants’ explanations, including the testimony of Defendants’ witnesses; persuaded the Court that Defendants’ official story concealed their true reasons for acting; and — on that basis — ultimately prevailed. See, e.g., New York, 351 F.Supp. 3d at 565 (finding the testimony of one witness “materially misleading”); id. at 556 (noting Gore’s admission that he did not believe adding the citizenship question was necessary to improve Voting Rights Act enforcement efforts, the stated rationale for doing so). Indeed, evidence that apportionment effects might have been a reason for Secretary Ross’s decision supported the Court’s conclusion that improving Voting Rights Act enforcement was not his actual reason. See id. at 568, ¶ 170. Thus, not only did the NGO Plaintiffs ultimately “obtain[] all the relief they sought when they brought this case,” but they did so in part for the same reasons they now seek further sanctions against Defendants. In the final analysis, although the NGO Plaintiffs’ allegations are troubling, so too were the facts that won them a victory at trial and in the Supreme Court. Plaintiffs’ theory of the case could hardly need more judicial vindication than that.


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