A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the Trump administration's effort to stop Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from having to sit for questioning under oath as part of the multiple lawsuits across the country over his decision to add a question about U.S. citizenship status to the 2020 census.
But the judges have kept Ross' Oct. 11 deposition temporarily on hold to allow either the administration or the lawsuits' plaintiffs "to seek relief from the Supreme Court," according to the order released Tuesday.
The 2nd Circuit order comes amid a last-minute scramble by the Trump administration's attorneys to stop Ross and another key official behind the citizenship question — Justice Department official John Gore — from having to testify out of court in the two lead lawsuits in New York. Evidence gathering for the two lawsuits is set to end this week.
The decision upholds an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who wrote: "Secretary Ross must sit for a deposition because, among other things, his intent and credibility are directly at issue in these cases."
Lawyers for the dozens of states, cities and organizations suing the Trump administration — including California — were set to question Ross on Thursday, the day after they're scheduled to depose Gore. Gore leads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division that, the administration argues, needs responses to the citizenship question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act's protections against discrimination of racial and language minorities.