By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to postpone a trial set for Nov. 5 that will examine the legality of its decision to ask people taking part in the 2020 U.S. census whether they are citizens.
The administration is asking for the trial to be placed on hold until the Supreme Court resolves a dispute over evidence, including whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, can be forced to answer questions about the politically charged decision.
On Friday, Manhattan U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who will preside over the trial, and a federal appeals court both refused to postpone the trial.
Furman said a stay of the trial was not warranted and could hinder a final resolution of the case before the government begins printing the census forms next year.
The lawsuit, brought by 18 states and a number of cities and counties, was spearheaded by Democratic officials. It is consolidated with another suit by several immigrant rights groups accusing the administration of discrimination against non-white immigrants.
Critics of the citizenship question have said it will deter people in immigrant communities from participating in the census, disproportionately affecting Democratic-leaning states by undercounting the number of residents.
The administration has said it needs the data to enforce a voting rights law as it relates to minority voters.
Furman said in a Sept. 21 order that Ross must face a deposition by lawyers for the states because his "intent and credibility are directly at issue" in the lawsuit.
Furman said there was doubt about Ross' public statements that the Justice Department initiated the request to include the citizenship question and that he was not aware of any discussions with the White House about it.
But on Oct. 22, the Supreme Court blocked Ross' deposition and gave the administration until Monday to appeal the trial judge's orders.
The administration told the justices on Monday that there should be no trial into Ross' motives for adding the citizenship question, including whether he harbored "secret racial animus" in doing so.
"The harms to the government from such a proceeding are self-evident," the government said.
The U.S. Constitution mandates a census every 10 years. It is used in the allocation of seats in Congress and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds. A citizenship question has not appeared on the census since 1950.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Peter Cooney)