Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


In 5-4 decision, Supreme Court finds “a significant mismatch between the decision the Secretary made and the rationale he provided” on citizenship question.

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson released the following statement today after the U.S. Supreme Court kept the injunction against the census citizenship question in place and remanded the case back to the U.S. District Courts:

“Today’s ruling is yet another affirmation of the core values of our country,” Ferguson said. “The Administration’s supposed justification for adding a citizenship question to the Census was a lie — a lie to the courts and to the American people. Their true goal: To create gerrymandered voting districts that ‘would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.’ The court found that ‘altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the secretary gave for his decision.’ With this decision, which upholds the rule of law, it’s unlikely that a citizenship question will ever be added to the 2020 Census.”

The Supreme Court confirmed today one of the core principles of our democracy:  “agencies [must] offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public. Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.” 

The Court’s ruling today, coupled with the Fourth Circuit’s decision earlier this week, means that the Administration’s true purpose in adding a citizenship question will be daylighted and subject to public review in the courts.  Washington will continue to support efforts to hold the Administration accountable for arbitrary conduct that hurts our residents.    

Ferguson joined a multistate lawsuit in April of 2018 in the Southern District of New York challenging the Administration’s decision to add the question to the Census on constitutional and statutory grounds. The City of Seattle also joined the lawsuit.

In January, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman agreed with the states, finding that, when he made the decision to add the question, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices — [resulting in] a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut [Administrative Procedure Act] violations.”

After the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the Administration’s appeal, new evidence was uncovered that detailed a Republican strategist’s alleged role in developing the justification for adding the question. The strategist, who has since died, determined that the effects of adding a citizenship question would aid redistricting efforts that would be “advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites."

With its 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court agreed with Judge Furman, confirming that government agencies must provide the true basis and rationale for decisions that impact the public, such as the Trump Administration’s attempt to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Lawsuits against the Trump Administration

Ferguson has filed 39 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson now has 21 legal victories against the Trump Administration. Twelve of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has or may appeal the other 9, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers and 3D-printed guns. No court to rule on the merits of the Attorney General’s arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against the office.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov