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Case Name NAACP v. Bureau of the Census PB-MD-0004
Docket / Court 8:18-cv-00891-PWG ( D. Md. )
State/Territory Maryland
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Take Care
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
On March 28, 2018 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Prince George’s County, Maryland filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The plaintiffs sued the U.S. Census Bureau, the Secretary of Commerce, and the President of the ... read more >
On March 28, 2018 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Prince George’s County, Maryland filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The plaintiffs sued the U.S. Census Bureau, the Secretary of Commerce, and the President of the United States for “conspicuous neglect” of their duty to ensure the “actual enumeration” required by Article I of the U.S. Constitution. The case was assigned to Judge Paul W. Grimm.

The plaintiffs claimed that this neglect had led to undercounting in the past, and would lead to higher undercounting in the 2020 Census, particularly affecting disadvantaged and minority populations. Prince George’s County alleged that its population had been undercounted by 1.9% in 2000 and 2.3% in 2010. These undercounts impacted redistricting, distribution of public funds, and apportionment of representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The plaintiffs claimed that the 2010 Census undercounted African Americans by roughly 1.5 million, while overcounting other demographic groups such as home owners and non-Hispanic whites.

Census design flaws, underfunding, and lack of staff and leadership, together with Prince George’s County’s demographics and history of being undercounted, suggested a likelihood that the detrimental effects of undercounting were likely to be exacerbated for the county in the 2020 Census. For example, whereas the Bureau’s budget has typically grown with each successive Census, it has decreased from $4.2 billion in 2010 to $3.9 billion in 2020. Moreover, the plaintiffs claimed that the plan to administer more of the Census digitally would lead to undercounting for areas with little broadband access, and leave the Census open to cyber attacks.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the government had an obligation to administer a fair and accurate census, and to enjoin the government from violating that duty. Moreover, the plaintiffs requested that the court issue an injunction requiring the government to propose and implement a policy that ensures a hard count subject to court monitoring.

The plaintiffs subsequently filed two amended complaints adding the parties’ addresses. The government moved to dismiss on July 13, 2018, arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing, the claim was not ripe, the decision constituted a political question beyond judicial review, and that the Enumeration Clause required only that the government conduct a person-by-person headcount of the population. The plaintiffs responded a month later. They argued that they had standing, citing the specific injury of a “severe differential undercount” resulting in vote dilution and loss of federal funding. On ripeness, the plaintiffs claimed to be at imminent risk of harm, and waiting until the census began would leave them without remedy. Against the government’s claim of unreviewable discretion in conducting the census, the plaintiffs cited decades of census-related litigation. In November 2018, the plaintiffs submitted a supplemental notice of Judge George Hazel’s recent ruling in La Unión del Pueblo Entero v. Ross, a similar case in the District of Maryland, rejecting government arguments in a similar motion to dismiss.

The court set a hearing for January 14, 2019. However, the government moved to continue the hearing in light of the government shutdown and resulting lapse in appropriations. The plaintiffs opposed the motion, as the census count would occur in just over a year, and other courts had refused to delay ongoing census litigation for the same reason. They argued that the shutdown would disrupt census preparations, leading to further inaccurate results. The court denied the motion to continue the hearing, finding that the case involved the protection of property, that the shutdown supported the plaintiff’s argument that the government would not be prepared to conduct an accurate census in 2020, and that this type of motion has been denied in similar pending cases.

The court ruled on January 29, 2019, granting in part the motion to dismiss. 382 F. Supp. 3d 349. The court noted this case was unique from other pending census litigation, as this suit did not include a challenge to final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act. Instead, it challenged the agency’s action before it had finalized the 2020 Census preparations. The court thus denied without prejudice the request for injunctive relief, finding this claim not yet ripe because preparations were ongoing. However, the court recognized the potential for declaratory relief to ensure sufficient funds for census preparations, found that the plaintiffs had standing on this claim, and allowed this claim to proceed.

On February 28, 2019, the court allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint, adding a claim under the Administrative Procedure Act, but not allowing a restatement of the Enumeration Clause claim. The government moved to dismiss the amended claims.

The plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint on April 1, 2019. This complaint, among other things, removed President Donald Trump as a defendant. On April 15, 2019, the government filed a motion to dismiss the second amended complaint. This motion to dismiss was granted on August 1, 2019. The court found that “the 2019 Appropriations Act moots the funding claim,” and “the Final Operational Plan is not final agency action” reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act. 399 F.Supp.3d 406

On August 6, 2019, the plaintiffs appealed. Oral argument was heard on October 30, 2019, and the Fourth Circuit (Judges Roger Gregory, Barbara Keenan, and Julius Richardson) issued its opinion on December 19, 2019. It agreed with the district court that “plaintiffs’ APA claims, as pleaded, do not satisfy the jurisdictional limitations on judicial review set forth in the APA.” It disagreed, however, with the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ Enumeration Clause claim, “mindful of the Supreme Court’s recent guidance affirming judicial review of ‘both constitutional and statutory challenges to census-related decisionmaking,’ Dept’t of Commerce v. New York.” The Fourth Circuit remanded that portion of the case to the district court. 945 F.3d 183.

The plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint on January 10, 2020. In addition, the plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction on January 21, 2020, asking the court to compel the government to expend 2020 Census funds in specified ways. On February 11, 2020, the government sought to dismiss the case, and sought summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

On March 5, 2020, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The court held, among other things, that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that the government had “refused to spend the appropriations from Congress in the specific manner that Congress directed,” and “if the census proceeds as planned, there will be a differential undercount of the magnitude they fear, or that if [the court] were to order the funds spent as they want, the 2020 census would not produce an equal or worse undercount for hard-to-count communities.”

In addition, the court granted the government’s motion to dismiss, on April 16, 2020. The court held that the plaintiffs did not “plausibly allege that the Census Bureau’s plan fails to bear a reasonable relationship to an actual enumeration or that any of the Census Bureau’s actions unreasonably compromise the distributive accuracy of the census.” As such, the court ruled the remaining motions moot, and directed the clerk to close the case. 2020 WL 1890531.

The case is closed.

Will McCartney - 04/05/2018
Erica Lignell - 03/29/2019
Bogyung Lim - 07/10/2020


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Funding
Government Services (specify)
Record-keeping
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Race
Race, unspecified
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) President of the United States
U.S. Census Bureau
Plaintiff Description NAACP, Prince George’s County Maryland, and residents of Prince George's County
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 03/28/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PB-CA-0049 : California v. Ross (N.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  NAACP v. Bureau of the Census
brennancenter.org
Date: Apr. 21, 2020
By: Brennan Center for Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Calendar of Upcoming Deadlines and Hearings for Census 2020 Cases
Date: Mar. 29, 2019
(Brennan Center for Justice)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  2020 Census Litigation
(The Brennan Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
8:18-cv-891 (D. Md.)
PB-MD-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/16/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PB-MD-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/28/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 38] (2018 WL 6046270)
PB-MD-0004-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 43]
PB-MD-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Letter Order Denying Motion to Continue [ECF# 55] (D. Md.)
PB-MD-0004-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/07/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order Dismissing Claims Against Pres. Trump [ECF# 64] (2019 WL 355743) (D. Md.)
PB-MD-0004-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/29/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Letter Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend in Part [ECF# 76] (D. Md.)
PB-MD-0004-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (945 F.3d 183)
PB-MD-0004-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/19/2019
Source: Google Scholar
Third Amended Complaint [ECF# 168]
PB-MD-0004-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 182] (D. Md.)
PB-MD-0004-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/05/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 189] (2020 WL 1890531) (D. Md.)
PB-MD-0004-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/16/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Grimm, Paul William (D. Md.) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0004 | PB-MD-0004-0005 | PB-MD-0004-0006 | PB-MD-0004-0008 | PB-MD-0004-0009 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Keenan, Barbara Milano (Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0007
Sullivan, Timothy J. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alderdice, Jacob (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0001 | PB-MD-0004-0002 | PB-MD-0004-0010 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Alter, Benjamin Dylan (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-9000
Asaka, Anson (Maryland) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0010
Burbank, Renee (Connecticut) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0002 | PB-MD-0004-0010 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Craine, Khyla Danielle (Michigan) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-9000
Craine, Khyla Danielle (Maryland) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0002
Creelan, Jeremy (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0002 | PB-MD-0004-0010 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Diaz, Jonathan (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0001 | PB-MD-0004-0002 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Gowdey, Logan J (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-9000
Hoffman, Olivia (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-9000
Kohlmann, Susan J. (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0001 | PB-MD-0004-0002 | PB-MD-0004-0010 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Ross, Michael W. (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-9000
Wishnie, Michael J. (Connecticut) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0010 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Wishnie, Michael J. (New York) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0001 | PB-MD-0004-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Bailey, Kate (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0003
Coyle, Garrett Joseph (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0003
Ehrlich, Stephen (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0003 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Federighi, Carol (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-0003 | PB-MD-0004-9000
Lynch, Christopher M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-MD-0004-9000

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