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Second federal judge denies DOJ request to change lawyers in census case

Trump doubles down on citizenship question

A federal judge in Maryland has denied the Justice Department's request to change its legal team in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's efforts to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census, one day after another judge in New York denied a similar request in a parallel case. It's the latest in a series of setbacks for the Trump administration as it attempts to add the question to the census following a Supreme Court ruling that sided with those seeking to block its inclusion.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge George Hazel in Maryland denied the DOJ's request to change up its legal team in the middle of a contentious battle over the question. On Tuesday, Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York also denied the government's request to withdraw its team of lawyers, saying the government did not provide "satisfactory reasons" for making the switch. 

Hazel said changing the legal team in the middle of the court proceedings would disrupt the case. Hazel suggested the Trump administration might be able to withdraw lawyers, but will need to provide "more specific assurances" first. 

"The court shares the concerns articulated in Judge Furman's well-reasoned order denying defendants' parallel motion in the related New York case that a shift in counsel at this late stage may be disruptive to an already complicated and expedited case," Hazel wrote. "But, unlike the local rules in the Southern District of New York, the local rules in this district do not include a requirement that attorneys provide 'satisfactory reasons' for withdrawal."

Hazel stressed "the need for a transition of counsel that does not disrupt the orderly administration of justice."

"While the court is inclined to ultimately permit the withdrawal, under the unique circumstances of this request, more specific assurances will first need to be provided," he wrote.

Mr. Trump has vowed to fight to include the census question following the Supreme Court ruling, surprising even those in his own administration last week when he ordered the Commerce Department and Justice Department to find a way to add it. The president confirmed to reporters last week he's considering an executive order to ensure the question makes its way onto the census.

Clare Hymes contributed to this report. 

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