Attorney General Becerra, Local Governments File Brief in Supreme Court on California Census Lawsuit

Friday, April 5, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a U.S. District Court ruling in California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s move to add a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. On March 6, 2019, Attorney General Becerra and his coalition secured a victory in their lawsuit, when the district court ruled that the citizenship question was unconstitutional and unlawful. That ruling blocked the Trump Administration from including the question on the grounds that it violated the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act and would likely lead to a greater undercount of the actual population. On March 18, in their petition for certiorari, the federal government requested that the U.S. Supreme Court consider California’s district court ruling. In response, Attorney General Becerra argues that the district court’s judgment is correct and should be both considered and affirmed.

“The district court was correct in its ruling that the citizenship question was unconstitutional and unlawful,” said Attorney General Becerra. “An accurate census count sets in motion the services and benefits that shape the future of every Californian, impacting everything from education to public safety. A population undercount not only threatens our economy, it jeopardizes our fair representation in Congress. We urge the Supreme Court to uphold this ruling so that our communities may move forward with a fair and nonpartisan census process in which each person can be counted equally and without prejudice.” 

The district court ruling held that the citizenship question violates Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, which requires the “actual Enumeration” of all people in each state every ten years, and the Administrative Procedure Act’s prohibition against agency action that is “arbitrary and capricious” or contrary to law. An accurate population count of all individuals – regardless of citizenship status – is mandated every ten years under the U.S. Constitution.  In addition to determining Congressional representation and distribution of federal funding, an accurate population count enables states and localities to identify the need for critical services like disaster relief, infrastructure projects, public health assistance, schools, and police and fire protection.

Last year, Attorney General Becerra – along with Secretary of State Alex Padilla – published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighting how high the stakes are for California when it comes to conducting a fair and accurate census. On February 12, 2018, at a time when it was rumored that the Trump Administration would add a citizenship question to the census, Attorney General Becerra co-led a coalition of 19 Attorneys General in sending a letter to US Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, warning that a citizenship question would violate the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes. A month later, on March 26, 2018, the same day that the Trump Administration announced its decision to add the citizenship question, California filed the first lawsuit to challenge the unlawful maneuver, with the County of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Cities of Fremont, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Stockton joining soon after. Now, the matter stands before the US Supreme Court for final adjudication.

 A copy of the brief can be found here.

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