Census Worker Told to ‘Get Rid of’ Cases Despite Judge’s Order

Trump Administration’s Census Violations ‘Must Stop,’ Judge Says

A Census worker in Colorado says he’s been ordered by a supervisor “to get rid of” his cases in the coming days, in violation of a judge’s order to keep the count going until the end of the month.

The worker sent an email Friday to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, who late Thursday again warned the Trump administration to stop violating her order that directed the Commerce Department to complete the 2020 census rather than halt the once-a-decade population count early.

Koh previously ruled the department’s efforts to wrap up the census on Oct. 5 instead of Oct. 31 violated an injunction issued in the case brought by civil rights groups seeking an accurate count. The judge has threatened sanctions and contempt of court if the violations continue.

The judge has been flooded with emails from Census field workers telling her about supervisors ordering them to wrap up their work early. She ordered the Commerce Department to respond to the latest allegation by Friday at 8 p.m.

In her late Thursday ruling, Koh took particular issue with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announcing the Oct. 5 target date on Monday. The announcement came just minutes before Koh held a hearing and took the judge by surprise.

“Defendants’ dissemination of erroneous information; lurching from one hasty, unexplained plan to the next; and unlawful sacrifices of completeness and accuracy of the 2020 census are upending the status quo, violating the injunction order, and undermining the credibility of the Census Bureau and the 2020 census,” Koh said.

“This must stop,” she added.

The Commerce Department’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Trump administration lost its appeal of Koh’s ruling that blocked the administration from moving its deadline for data collection.

The fight over the deadline is the latest clash over the census, a $15.6 billion operation that the Trump administration has attempted to tweak by trying to add a question about citizenship and block the counting of undocumented immigrants, triggering separate court clashes.

Koh ordered the Census Bureau to send text messages Friday to all employees notifying them that the Oct. 5 target date “is not operative” and that data collection efforts will continue through Oct. 31 pursuant to a court order. The judge also ordered Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham to file a declaration “under penalty of perjury” next week “that unequivocally confirms defendants’ ongoing compliance” with the injunction.

“The court will subject defendants to sanctions or contempt proceedings if defendants violate the injunction order again,” she wrote.

As of Friday at 3 p.m. Pacific time, it was unclear from the court docket if the Commerce Department had sent the required text, or if Dillingham had filed his declaration.

The case is National Urban League v. Ross, 20-cv-05799, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Get Regular Updates