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DOC v. New York

Supreme Court of the United States

April 23, 2019, Argued; June 27, 2019, Decided

No. 18-966.


 [*2560]  Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court.

 [*2561]  The Secretary of Commerce decided to reinstate a question about citizen [**989]  ship on the 2020 census questionnaire. A group of plaintiffs challenged that decision on constitutional and statutory grounds. We now decide whether the Secretary violated the Enumeration Clause of the Constitution, the Census Act, or otherwise abused his discretion.

In order to apportion Members of the House of Representatives among the States, the Constitution requires an “Enumeration” of the population every 10 years, to be made “in such Manner” as Congress “shall by Law direct.” Art. I, §2, cl. 3; Amdt. 14, §2. In the Census Act, Congress delegated to the Secretary of Commerce the task of conducting the decennial census “in such form and content as he may determine.” 13 U. S. C. §141(a). The Secretary is aided in that task by the Census Bureau, a statistical agency housed within the Department of Commerce. See §§2, 21.

The population count derived from the census is used not only to apportion representatives but also to allocate federal funds to the States and to draw electoral districts. Wisconsin v. City of New York, 517 U. S. 1, 5-6, 116 S. Ct. 1091, 134 L. Ed. 2d 167 (1996). The census additionally serves as a means of collecting demographic information, which “is used for such varied purposes [***12]  as computing federal grant-in-aid benefits, drafting of legislation, urban and regional planning, business planning, and academic and social studies.” Baldrige v. Shapiro, 455 U. S. 345, 353-354, n. 9, 102 S. Ct. 1103, 71 L. Ed. 2d 199 (1982). Over the years, the census has asked questions about (for example) race, sex, age, health, education, occupation, housing, and military service. It has also asked about radio ownership, age at first marriage, and native tongue. The Census Act obliges everyone to answer census questions truthfully and requires the Secretary to keep individual answers confidential, including from other Government agencies. §§221, 8(b), 9(a).

There have been 23 decennial censuses from the first census in 1790 to the most recent in 2010. Every census between 1820 and 2000 (with the exception of 1840) asked at least some of the population about their citizenship or place of birth. Between 1820 and 1950, the question was asked of all households. Between 1960 and 2000, it was asked of about one-fourth to one-sixth of the population. That change was part of a larger effort to simplify the census by asking most people a few basic demographic questions (such as sex, age, race, and marital status) on a short-form questionnaire, while asking a sample of the population more [***13]  detailed demographic questions on a long-form questionnaire. In explaining the decision to move the citizenship question to the long-form questionnaire, the Census Bureau opined that “general census information on citizenship had become of less importance compared with other possible questions to be included in the census, particularly in view of the  [*2562]  recent statutory requirement for annual alien registration which could provide the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the principal user of such data, with the information  [**990]  it needed.” Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Census, 1960 Censuses of Population and Housing 194 (1966). 1

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139 S. Ct. 2551 *; 204 L. Ed. 2d 978 **; 2019 U.S. LEXIS 4402 ***; 27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 1134; 2019 WL 2619473

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, et al., Petitioners v. NEW YORK, et al.

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.


New York v. United States DOC, 351 F. Supp. 3d 502, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6954 (S.D.N.Y., Jan. 15, 2019)

Disposition: 351 F. Supp. 3d 502, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.


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Constitutional Law, Congressional Duties & Powers, Census, Census & Enumeration, Governments, Federal Government, Executive Offices, Case or Controversy, Standing, Elements, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Arbitrary & Capricious Standard of Review, Reviewability, Preclusion, Separation of Powers, Legislative Controls, Explicit Delegation of Authority, Census, Scope of Delegated Authority, Apportionment & Redistricting, Standards of Review, Governmental Information, Administrative Record, Administrative Record, Disclosure & Discovery, Agency Adjudication, Decisions, Contents