Voting-rights activists fighting the government’s attempt to add a census question about citizenship faced a setback Wednesday when a federal district court postponed any inquiry into new evidence that the question originated with a partisan operative who hoped it would benefit “non-Hispanic whites.”
The case—and the question of what to do about the newly revealed evidence—is now back in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is expected to issue a decision in the next three weeks.
The ACLU, the New York Immigration Coalition, and others had hoped that Judge Jesse Furman would allow expedited discovery in the case. That would enable them to probe for more evidence and potentially question government officials about what they knew and when.
The evidence consists of a trove of documents discovered on the deceased operative’s hard drive and contradicts sworn testimony by government officials who said that they came up with the citizenship question themselves. Exploring that evidence further would likely turn up more damning information, and possibly cause the Supreme Court to pause its own deliberations.
If you take a cynical view of the court, it’s pretty unlikely that the conservative majority—which seemed to accept the government’s positions at face value at the case’s oral arguments in April—will allow that to happen. It’s quite possible that a majority of the court will simply decide the case on the evidence in front of it, rendering all of the new discoveries legally irrelevant.
After all, if the court’s position is simply to evaluate the rationale the government puts in front of it, and not inquire into how it arrived at that position, then no matter what this new evidence reveals, it doesn’t really matter.
That has been the government’s position all along: that all that is required is “an objectively rational basis” for the rule. Pay no attention to all those men behind the curtain.
On the other hand, the court didn’t have this new evidence in April. It’s possible that Chief Justice John Roberts, who has ruled against Republican political interests many times (saving Obamacare most notoriously), may do so again here.
There are precedents on both sides of the question. Sometimes, the Supreme Court admits new evidence; other times, it doesn’t. Unlike lower courts, the Supreme Court can, more or less, do whatever it wants.
Soon, we’ll find out what that is.
*see full story by The Daily Beast