Department of commerce v. New York
Term: 2018
Important Dates
Argument: April 23, 2019
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Chief Justice man G. Roberts • Ruth Bader Ginsburg • Sonia Sotomayor • Elena ka • Stephen Breyer
Clarence thomas • Samuel Alito • Neil Gorsuch • Brett Kavanaugh

See also: obstacles to citizenship question on 2020 U.S. Census

Department of business v. Brand-new York to be a case before the United claims Supreme Court in i beg your pardon the court ruled that the trumped administration"s decision to include a citizenship question to the U.S. Census did not violate the Enumeration clause or the Census Act, but that commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross" rationale because that the decision was inconsistent with the bureaucratic record. The court held 5-4 to affirm in part, turning back in part, and also remand the case to the company for more proceedings. Oral disagreements were hosted on April 23, 2019, throughout the court"s 2018-2019 term. The case came top top a writA court"s written order commanding the recipient come either perform or stop from act a stated act. Of certiorariLatin because that "to be more fully informed." it is an "order issued by the U.S. Supreme Court directing the lower court to transmit records for a instance it will certainly hear top top appeal."<1> to the United says District Court for the southern District of new York.

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Why that matters: The judgment intervened in the practice of delegated congressional government to invoke an exception for evaluating company decisions past the scope of the bureaucratic record on what it dubbed a "strong reflecting of negative faith or wrong behavior" drawn from the 1971 situation Citizens to keep Overton Park v. Volpe. The dissenting justices said that the exception opens a new legal avenue because that challengers come contest administrative actions based purely on pretext.<3>

You deserve to review the lower court"s opinion here.<5>

For a complete timeline of legal obstacles to the citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census, click here.


The adhering to timeline details key events in this case:

June 27, 2019: Decision issued by the United says Supreme CourtApril 23, 2019: dental argumentFebruary 15, 2019: U.S. Supreme Court agreed come hear caseJanuary 25, 2019: Petition filed through U.S. Can be fried Court


See also: obstacles to citizenship inquiry on 2020 U.S. Census
Did friend know?A question around citizenship has appeared intermittently ~ above the U.S. Census due to the fact that 1820. The inquiry last showed up on a little sample (one-sixth) of the 2000 census forms.<6>

In march 2018, commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the the 2020 census would encompass a question around citizenship in stimulate to assist the U.S. Department of justice (DOJ) force the Voting rights Act. The question asks, "Is this human a citizens of the unified States?"

The addition of the concern was challenged by part states and civil civil liberties groups. The challengers suggested that families with people residing in the nation without legal permission would be less likely come respond to the census, leading to an inaccurate count.

District court ruling

Judge Jesse Furman the the United states District Court for the southerly District of new York approve a ruling in a consolidated situation on January 15, 2019, holding the Ross violated the governmental Procedure act (APA) by, in his view, no properly following APA procedure when including a question concerning citizenship standing in the 2020 census.<7><5>

Plaintiffs in the situation had also argued the Ross violated the equal protection component that the U.S. Constitution"s Due process Clause. Furman, however, hosted that the due procedure claims fell short since the bureaucratic record in the instance did not demonstrate discrimination together a motivating aspect for Ross" decision.<7>

The case consolidated 2 legal challenges before the southerly District of brand-new York: State of brand-new York, et al. V. United says Department the Commerce, et al. And brand-new York immigration Coalition, et al. V. United claims Department that Commerce, et al. The plaintiffs in the instances included a coalition of 18 states and the district of Columbia, 15 cities and counties, the United says Conference of Mayors, and also a team of advocacy organizations.<7>

Appeal come the United says Supreme Court

The U.S. Department of justice appealed to the United states Supreme Court and also requested the the court bypass one appellate court decision in order to worry a ruling gradually for the 2020 census. Top top February 15, 2019, the United claims Supreme Court announced the it would hear the case.

The United says Supreme Court i agree on march 6, 2019, to increase the scope of the instance to additionally consider a reduced court judgment from referee Richard Seeborg that the United claims District Court because that the north District of California claiming that the citizenship inquiry violates the U.S. Constitution"s Enumeration Clause.

Questions presented

The petitionerA party petitioning one appellate court to consider its case. Gift the complying with questions to the court:<4>

Questions presented:1.) even if it is the district court erred in enjoining the secretary of the room of commerce from reinstating a question around citizenship to the 2020 decennial census top top the ground the the secretary’s decision violated the governmental Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701 et seq.2.) Whether, in an activity seeking to collection aside agency action under the APA, a district court might order discovery outside the bureaucratic record to probe the psychological processes of the firm decisionmaker—including by compelling the testimony that high-ranking executive, management branch officials—without a solid showing that the decisionmaker disbelieved the objective factors in the bureaucratic record, irreversibly prejudged the issue, or plot on a legit forbidden basis.3.) whether the secretary the commerce"s decision to add a citizenship question to the decennial census violated the Enumeration i of the U.S. Constitution, Art. I, §2, CL. 3.


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The court organized 5-4 come affirm in part, reverse in part, and also remand the situation to the company for additional proceedings.<3> The justices ruled that the trump card administration"s decision to include the citizenship inquiry to the census did not violate the Enumeration clause or the Census Act, yet that commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross" rationale because that the decision to be inconsistent through the administrative record. Chief Justice man Roberts ceded the opinion, which was joined in component by the adhering to justices:

Justice Clarence cutting board filed one opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, which was joined by justices Neil Gorsuch and also Brett Kavanaugh. Justice Stephen Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and also Elena kagan joined. Justice Samuel Alito filed one opinion concurring in component and dissenting in part.<3>


Chief Justice john Roberts yielded the opinion for the court. In parts I and also II of the opinion, Roberts started by reviewing the truth of the case and determining whether the respondent had write-up III standing. The justices all concurred the "at least some" the the respondents in the instance had standing. Roberts climate proceeded to research the constitutional and also procedural disagreements in the case.<3>

Part III: Enumeration Clause

Roberts, join by justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and also Brett Kavanaugh, stated that congress passed law delegating vast authority to the Secretary of business to carry out the census. The justices check the historical record and concluded that Congress had actually sought—or permitted the Secretary of business to seek—citizenship details on the census as beforehand as 1820. Roberts wrote, "Here, together in various other areas, our interpretation of the structure is guided through a government practice that "has been open, widespread, and also unchallenged due to the fact that the beforehand days that the Republic." In irradiate of the at an early stage understanding of and long practice under the Enumeration Clause, us conclude the it permits Congress, and by extension the Secretary, to inquire around citizenship top top the census questionnaire."<3>

Part IV-A: justice reviewSee also: righteousness review

Roberts, joined by judge Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and also Brett Kavanaugh, organized that Ross" decision to include the citizenship concern to the census was topic to judicial review. The justices detailed that the governmental Procedure act does not contact for judicial testimonial in situations where the an agency"s decision is “committed to firm discretion through law.” However, the justices stated that the discretion granted come the Secretary of business through the Census action is not unbounded and also is not thought about to it is in a form of administrative decision that the court traditionally considers to be cursed to agency discretion. Roberts explained that those exceptions are limited to small categories of administrative decisions, such as decisions no to enter into enforcement proceedings or details personnel action by intelligence agencies in the attention of nationwide security.<3>

"The Secretary’s decision to reinstate a citizenship question is amenable to review for compliance with ... Provisions that the Census Act, follow to the basic requirements of reasoned company decisionmaking," Roberts wrote. "Because this is no a situation in which over there is "no regulation to apply," the Secretary’s decision is topic to righteousness review."<3>

Part IV-B: application of the arbitrary-or-capricious testSee also: Arbitrary-or-capricious test

The justices used the governmental Procedure Act"s arbitrary-or-capricious test to more review Ross" decision. In using the test, the judge did not substitute their own judgment for the of Ross, however rather examined Ross" decision making in stimulate to determine if it to be reasonable in light of the evidence. Roberts, joined by judge Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, found that the evidence before Ross supported his reasonable decision to add the citizenship concern to the census and did not violate the governmental Procedure Act"s arbitrary-or-capricious standard.<3>

"The Secretary justifiably uncovered the Bureau’s analysis inconclusive," Roberts wrote. "Weighing that uncertainty against the worth of obtaining much more complete and accurate citizenship data, he identified that reinstating a citizenship concern was worth the threat of a perhaps lower solution rate. That decision to be reasonable and reasonably explained, an especially in light of the long background of the citizenship concern on the census."<3>

Part IV-C: Census Act

Roberts, joined by judge Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and also Brett Kavanaugh, organized that Ross" action were regular with the provisions the the Census action at concern in the case. Those provisions require the secretary to (1) acquire bureaucratic records from other federal agencies and also state and also local governments; (2) use that info to the maximum extent possible “instead the conducting direct inquiries”; and also (3) report to Congress around the department"s plans because that the census.<3>

Roberts wrote, "As explained, administrative records would not, in his judgment, administer the an ext complete and accurate data that DOJ sought the thus might not, "consistent with" the kindand quality of the "statistics required," use bureaucratic records instead of asking about citizenship directly." Roberts more concluded that Ross" reports to conference "fully notified Congress of, and also explained, his decision."<3>

Part V: Inconsistencies through the bureaucratic record

Roberts, joined by judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and also Elena Kagan, organized that Ross" reason for including the citizenship concern in order to assistance enforcement of the Voting rights Acts was inconsistent through the bureaucratic record. The judge invoked "a narrow exception to the general rule against inquiring right into "the mental processes of bureaucratic decisionmakers"" attracted from the 1971 case Citizens to preserve Overton Park v. Volpe. "On a "strong mirroring of bad faith or not correct behavior,"" Roberts wrote, "such an inquiry might be warranted and may justify extra-record discovery."<3>

Roberts concluded, "We carry out not host that the firm decision right here was substantively invalid. But agencies need to pursue their objectives reasonably. Reasoned decisionmaking under the administrative Procedure action calls because that an explanation for firm action. What was detailed here was an ext of a distraction."<3>

Concurring and also dissenting opinions

Justice Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence thomas filed one opinion concurring in component and dissenting in part, which was joined by judge Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Cutting board dissented from component V of the opinion and also described the ruling as an "unprecedented exit from our deferential review of discretionary company decisions." Thomas said that the citizens to keep Overton Park v. Volpe criterion directs court reviewing company actions to grant a "presumption the regularity" come the executive, management branch. "This conclusion is extraordinary," cutting board wrote. "The Court engages in an unauthorized inspection into proof not properly prior to us to reach an unsupported conclusion. Moreover, each action of the inspection offends the presumption that regularity we owe the Executive. The judgment of the ar Court should be reversed."<3>

Thomas concurred v the court"s ruling in component IV-B of the opinion that the Ross" decision did no violate the arbitrary-or-capricious test. "The Court correctly applies this standard to conclude that the Secretary’s decision survives ordinary arbitrary-and-capricious review," cutting board wrote. "That hold should end our inquiry."<3>

Thomas concluded by claiming the the court"s decision deviated indigenous traditional bureaucratic law principles and also could open a brand-new avenue for difficulties to administrative actions based on pretext. "Now that the Court has opened up this avenue of attack, opponents of executive, management actions have solid incentives to craft narratives that would derail them," cutting board wrote. "The Court’s decision permits partisans to use the courts to harangue executive police officers through depositions, discovery, delay, and also distraction. The Court’s decision might even implicate separation-of-powers concerns insofar as it allows judicial interference v the enforcement that the laws."<3>

Justice Stephen Breyer

Justice Stephen Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena kagan joined. Breyer concurred with components I, II, IV–A, and also V of the decision. The dissented from component IV-B and also argued the Ross" decision to add the citizenship inquiry to the census was, in fact, arbitrary or capricious in violation the the bureaucratic Procedure Act. Breyer cited the 1983 situation Motor car Manufacturers association of the unified States, Inc. V. State farm yard Mutual car Insurance agency in claiming the Ross "failed come "articulate a satisfactory explanation" for his decision, "failed to take into consideration ... Important aspect the the problem," and also "offered an explanation because that decision that runs counter to the evidence," all in violation of the APA."<3>

Justice Samuel Alito

Justice Samuel Alito filed an opinion concurring in component and dissenting in part. Alito concurred with parts I, II, III, IV–B, and also IV–C that the opinion. The dissented from component IV-A, arguing that Ross" decision to be committed to agency discretion by legislation and, therefore, not subject to judicial testimonial under the bureaucratic Procedure Act. That further suggested that the Census plot calls for congressional review fairly than righteousness review. "The Constitution provides Congress the authority to "direct" the "Manner" in which the census is conducted," Alito wrote."By imposing the §141(f) reporting requirements, Congress maintained some of that supervisory authority. That didnot transfer it come the courts."<3>

Alito additionally dissented from part V that the opinion and agreed v Justice thomas that the decision might encourage future "widespread righteousness inquiry" right into the motivations of agency actions. "To put the point bluntly, the federal Judiciary has actually no government to rod its nose right into the concern whether it is an excellent policy to incorporate a citizenship question on the census or even if it is the reasons offered by Secretary Ross for the decision to be his just reasons or his genuine reasons," Alito wrote. "Of course, we may determine whether the decision is constitutional. But under the considerations that commonly guide this Court in the exercise of its strength of judicialreview of company action, we have no government to decide whether the Secretary’s decision was rendered in compliance through the governmental Procedure Act."<3>

Text the the opinion

Read the complete opinion here.

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Though the court did not find that Ross" decision to add the citizenship inquiry to the 2020 census violated the bureaucratic Procedure Act"s arbitrary-or-capricious test, the justices invoked an exemption for inquiring right into the mental processes of bureaucratic decisionmakers past the border of the governmental record "on a "strong showing of poor faith or not correct behavior"" drawn from the 1971 situation Citizens to preserve Overton Park v. Volpe.<3>

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito argued critically that invoking the exemption would open a new legal avenue because that challengers come contest bureaucratic actions based upon pretext. "With today’s decision, the Court has opened a Pandora’s box of pretext-based obstacles in administrative law," composed Thomas in his dissent. "Opponents that future executive actions have the right to be expected to make complete use that the Court’s new approach."<3>