- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2019

Now even the lawyers arguing the census citizenship question have become a matter of dispute.

The Trump administration on Monday asked federal courts to withdraw the Justice Department team that had been arguing the case, and to replace them with another team of government lawyers.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, which is battling in a New York courtroom, told Judge Jesse Furman not to allow it unless the government can come up with a good reason for why it needed to switch horses in the middle of the race.

The ACLU suggested the Justice Department may be trying to pull a fast one on the judge in order to shield the government lawyers from sanctions the ACLU has demanded as punishment for what the rights group says were willful misrepresentations to the court.

“Defendants’ mass withdrawal risks hindering plaintiffs’ ability to litigate matters currently or soon to be pending before the court,” the ACLU said in its brief filed late Monday.

The Justice Department has not explained why it wanted to make the change, though a spokeswoman did praise the outgoing team of lawyers as demonstrating “the highest professionalism, integrity and skill inside and outside the courtroom.”

The ACLU says the original team of lawyers knew the administration wanted to ask a citizenship question for political purposes, even as the lawyers were arguing to the court that the purpose was to enforce voting rights laws.

The ACLU says new evidence proves the lawyers knew. The civil rights group asked Judge Furman to sanction the government lawyers.

Justice Department officials say the lawyers did not mislead the court and sanctions aren’t warranted.

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