WASHINGTON (AP) — A second federal judge on Wednesday rejected the Justice Department’s plan to switch up the legal team fighting to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
The latest order , handed down by U.S. District Judge George Hazel in Maryland, put up yet another roadblock as the Trump administration attempts to find a legal pathway forward to including the question — even after the Supreme Court barred it, at least temporarily. The order came just a day after another federal judge in Manhattan issued a similar ruling, saying the Justice Department can’t replace nine lawyers so late in the dispute without satisfactorily explaining why it’s doing so.
The rulings deal a significant blow to the Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr, who had personally approved changing up the litigation team. A third federal judge, who is hearing another census case in San Francisco, has yet to rule on the Justice Department’s motion to change its lawyers.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco declined to comment on Wednesday’s ruling.
The government has already begun the process of printing the census questionnaire without that question. Over the last week, the Trump administration has sent mixed signals — first saying the question was off before the president tweeted that his administration was “absolutely moving forward” with efforts to include it.
Barr said in an interview earlier this week he sees a legal pathway forward and the administration would take action in the coming days he believes will allow the government to add the controversial census query.