Chief Justice refuses to give Nadler, other members of Congress same-day audio in census citizenship case

Kevin Daley, DCNF

Chief Justice John Roberts rebuffed a bipartisan request to provide same-day audio for next week’s arguments in a much-watched dispute over the Trump administration’s bid to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Image: Chief Justice John Roberts, screenshot

A bipartisan coalition of congressmen sent a letter to the chief justice April 12, urging him to make audio of the argument available on the same day as the April 23 proceeding.

“Same-day audio has proven a valuable resource for tens of thousands of Americans interested in listening to the justices weigh the merits of a case in an unfiltered, unbiased and near-contemporaneous way,” the letter reads.

“Allowing prompt public access to a primary source like argument audio affords more Americans the ability to engage with its government, and though we acknowledge that oral arguments represent but a small portion of a case, a same-day audio release can effectively demonstrate to the public the Court’s diligence and collegiality when considering issues of national import,” the letter adds.

Signatories include House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler of New York, Democratic Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, as well as GOP Reps. Doug Collins of Georgia, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, Ben Cline of Virginia, Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania.

The chief justice did not give reasons for rejecting their request.

The Supreme Court does not televise its proceedings. Audio recordings of a given week’s arguments are available on Fridays. Transcripts are available several hours after an argument concludes.

In recent years, however, the high court released same-day audio in two marquee cases: the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges argument, concerning marriage equality, and the 2018 Trump v. Hawaii argument over the president’s travel sanctions.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman concluded that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by appending the citizenship question in January, and ordered its removal. The Commerce Department supervises the Census Bureau.

“[Ross] failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices — a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations,” Furman’s decision reads.

In separate challenges, other federal judges concluded that the citizenship question violates the Constitution, since it could impair the government’s ability to conduct an “actual enumeration.” Civil rights groups say the citizenship question deters minority participation in the census, depriving left-leaning jurisdictions of federal aid and representation in Congress.

The case is Department of Commerce v. New York. A decision is expected by late June.

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