A three-judge panel of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that the new policy violated federal law. In an unsigned opinion, the panel said the question was “not particularly close or complicated.”
“The secretary is required to report a single set of figures to the president — namely, ‘the tabulation of total population by states’ under the ‘decennial census’ — and the president is then required to use those same figures to determine apportionment using the method of equal proportions,” the panel wrote, quoting the relevant statutes.
Two of the judges on the panel, Richard C. Wesley and Peter W. Hall, were appointed by President George W. Bush. The third, Jesse M. Furman, was named by President Barack Obama.
Much of the panel’s opinion concerned whether the plaintiffs had suffered the sort of injury that gave them standing to sue. It concluded that the new policy made it less likely that undocumented immigrants and others would participate in the census, harming its accuracy. Census data is used for many purposes, including how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed.
The case, Trump v. New York, No. 20-366, was complicated by the order on Tuesday allowing the administration to end the census count, which may undercut the three-judge panel’s reasons for finding standing.
In asking the Supreme Court to step in, the Trump administration, represented by the acting solicitor general, Jeffrey B. Wall, defended the new policy, saying that the term “persons in each state” can be understood to require “a sovereign’s permission to remain within the jurisdiction.”
In response, Barbara D. Underwood, New York’s solicitor general, representing state and local governments, said the administration was asking the court to endorse a stunning departure from the nation’s traditions. “Since the Founding,” she wrote, “the population base used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives has never excluded any resident based on immigration status.”