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Judge blasts US lawyers for stalling census trial ruling

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge issued a stinging rebuke Tuesday to government lawyers seeking yet again to delay his ruling over whether it is legal to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

“Enough is enough,” Judge Jesse M. Furman in New York said as he rejected what he said has become a weekly effort by Justice Department lawyers to stop him from ruling on the merits of lawsuits accusing the Commerce Department of improperly adding the question.

He denied what he called the “latest and strangest effort,” a request that he wait to rule after a trial he presided over earlier this month until the Supreme Court hears arguments.

“What makes the motion most puzzling, if not sanctionable, is that they sought and were denied virtually the same relief only weeks ago,” Furman said, noting that he had rejected that request, as did the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Friday set oral arguments for Feb. 19 on the federal government’s request that rulings be based only on the official, or administrative, record the Commerce Department compiled before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced adding the question earlier this year.

More than a dozen states and big cities that sued to challenge the citizenship question maintain that the trial record should include depositions of acting assistant attorney general John Gore, Commerce Department officials and other evidence developed as part of the litigation.

Furman noted that the Justice Department has filed a dozen requests since Labor Day to delay the court case and has succeeded only in blocking the deposition of Ross.

Furman’s patience and acidic language has grown with each rejection he has issued.

On Tuesday, he called the federal government’s tactics “most galling” and “an insult to the court’s intelligence.”

“Unless burdening plaintiffs and the federal courts with make-work is a feature of defendants’ litigation strategy, as opposed to a bug, it is hard to see the point,” he said.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Furman heard testimony earlier this month. The government is supposed to file written arguments with the judge Wednesday. Oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 27. He indicated he was likely to rule before the Supreme Court hears arguments.

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