Judge puts brakes on Census Bureau

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Judge puts brakes on Census Bureau

Government News Source: WorldNetDaily Published: 28 March 2000 Author: Sarah Foster Posted on 03/28/2000 01:32:51 PST by matrix

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- THE POWER TO DESTROY Judge puts brakes on Census Bureau Attorney: 'Huge victory for the Constitution and for privacy-loving Americans'


By Sarah Foster ) 2000 WorldNetDaily.com

Americans who refuse to answer questions they consider invasive on their Census questionnaires will be able to sleep a little easier -- at least for now. A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Census Bureau has no automatic right to ask questions felt to be personal or intrusive and that it cannot threaten or prosecute citizens who refuse to answer such questions.

U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon granted attorney Mark Brewer, of the Houston-based firm of Brewer and Pritchard, a temporary restraining order in a Census suit filed by five Houston, Texas, residents. Attorneys for the government conceded that none of the five plaintiffs will be subject to actual or threatened prosecution during this litigation which is expected to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling is especially far-reaching.

"For the moment, this will prevent prosecution against any American who chooses not to answer questions other than the number of people living at their address -- that's all that's required by the Constitution," Brewer told WorldNetDaily. "It's a huge victory for the Constitution and for privacy-loving Americans, because we now have a ruling in a federal court case.

"The Census Bureau cannot extract this information under threat of criminal prosecution -- that was the issue I presented to the court," he said.

The penalty for not answering each question asked on the forms is $100. False answers can cost up to $500 in fines.

The five -- Edgar Morales, Laique Rehman, Nouhad Bassila, George Breckenridge and William Jeffrey Van Fleet -- are American citizens.

Brewer said his clients are not part of any organized group, "though that is what people have assumed. They are just ordinary people who want to be counted, but who do not want to give up their privacy to do so. That's the bottom line."

"What the court did today," Brewer explained, "was to order that the Bureau could neither threaten nor actually prosecute these people for not answering any question other than how many folks live at that address. It's the first time to my knowledge that this has happened in the 213 years since we've had a Constitution."

As he put it, "We hit a home run."

Recalling his day in court, Brewer said he told the judge she was "the only barrier standing between government on the one hand and these five -- I think very brave -- people and the American people generally on the other. I pointed out that the government lawyer had just told her that he can ask anything he darn near pleases -- where does it stop?"

Almost as important as the ruling itself is that the government conceded that the plaintiffs have "standing," meaning they had a right to bring an action against the Census Bureau in the first place.

"This removed what was potentially the biggest impediment to the case moving forward," said Brewer. "We're now looking forward to phase two, which is when the case will be submitted on summary judgement in two weeks."

"This is what they call a three-judge court case," he explained. "It's federal, but it's a very unusual procedure. There are only a few instances where it's permitted by federal law, this being the primary one: pertaining to census and apportionment. The case is filed like any other case in federal court, then it is referred by the chief judge of the circuit."

In this case, that's the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, headed by Judge Carol King.

Said Brewer, "The way it works is that when a motion of temporary restraining order is filed, which we did on March 23, the single judge that gets the initial assignment of the case can hear it. That's really about the only thing the judge can hear and rule upon. Then the three-judge court is convened and the case is submitted on trial -- and here it's for a summary judgment because there's no dispute of the facts.

"Both sides have the right of appeal," Brewer continued, "and we're assuming they (the Census Bureau) will appeal it. And if we lose -- we'll appeal it. Either way, it's on its way to the Supreme Court."

Brewer is handling the case pro bono -- that is, without charge, but and for the public good.

"One of the things I stressed to the judge," said Brewer, [is that] neither the plaintiffs nor I want to interrupt the census. To the contrary. I want to ensure its constitutional integrity and validity. But when you look at the lowered response rate, which by the Census Bureau's own admission is going to occur with the use of the long form, then you can only conclude that they are intentionally erecting a roadblock to getting an accurate count. They are intentionally sacrificing an accurate count in order to obtain information through statistics that they're not even entitled to obtain.

"Unfortunately, we know the government is capable of misusing census data," he said. "The federal government was only able to find, round up and imprison Americans of Japanese ancestry in 1942 by the illegal use of Census Bureau data."



-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), March 28, 2000


Maybe the right side can take heart we might be getting some attention. I sure hope so.

-- ET (bneville@zebra.net), March 28, 2000.

This piece of news warms me to my very soul.Not just only in regards to the Census but that the little guy's won one against the monolith.

Judge Melinda Harmon should be emailed by anyone who believes in our Constitution and thanked for such a tremendous decision.

Anybody know how to fish up that info?

-- capnfun (capnfun1@excite.com), March 28, 2000.

That is GREAT news. Thanks Flash. =)

-- cin (cinlooo@aol.corn), March 28, 2000.

And (groan............) then there is this:


Census chief says he doesn't expect privacy lawsuit to stand in court


From Staff and Wire Reports

The deputy Commerce secretary who oversees the Census Bureau said that a lawsuit objecting to in-depth census questions "knocks my socks off" because the government has a responsibility to collect detailed data.

The suit filed by defeated Houston-area Republican congressional candidate Mark Brewer and five supporters says questions about ethnicity and details about people's lives such as whether or not they have indoor or outdoor plumbing are none of the government's business.

"The lawsuit is not well-taken," Deputy Commerce Secretary Robert Mallett said Friday while in Dallas promoting the census. "We would not expect it to stand."

The suit filed Thursday against the U.S. Commerce Department and the Census Bureau in a federal court in Houston seeks to have the 2000 census nullified as an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

"We use census data for all kinds of purposes," said Mr. Mallett. The suit "knocks my socks off," he said.

The suit says that the government should ask U.S. residents little more than how many people live in each household.

"I'm going to fill out mine as far as the number of people who live in my household and send it in," Mr. Brewer said Thursday. He finished fourth in the GOP primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Bill Archer, R-Houston.

Census Bureau spokesman Steve Jost said Thursday that all census questions are legally required by Congress.

The plaintiffs specifically object to questions on the long form, first used in 1940, including one asking how long a resident's work commute takes. Census officials say they need such data to update housing statistics and help with distribution of federal funds. Staff writer Rick Klein and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

-- Birdlady (Bird@nest.home), March 28, 2000.

Of course the Census asshole says it won't stand in court,what's he supposed to say,I agree with them? For him to not defend his postion is tantamount to him saying "My job should be terminated,this agency is bogus and is a waste of hard earned taxpayers money"

At his level of salary he isn't gonna say I'll just find another job,his ego probably won't let him admit that he "is a totaly useless piece of shit".

This is a peaceful resistance,mark ONLY the number of residents in household.

This is MHO and my course of conduct.

-- capnfun (capnfun1@excite.com), March 28, 2000.

I can't believe even a third rate attorney would say that the Constitution put some limits on what can be asked on a census. The Constitution only states that there will be an enumeration every 10 years and gives Congress the right to have any questions on the Census that it sees fit. Ethnicity has been asked on every census since 1790. I'm glad this guy's not handling my case.

-- Jim Cooke (JJCooke@yahoo.com), March 29, 2000.


Maybe it is time to challenge this practice.Besides, our government has never before been able to reach so far into each and every aspect of our lives,they have proven themselves untrustable.

-- capnfun (capnfun1@excite.com), March 29, 2000.


I think Jim is correct on this one. The court can't rule to change the Constitution. This is not an opinion on the merits of the case, just a fact.

Best wishes,,,,

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), March 29, 2000.


Can the court block prosecution for not fully filling out the forms?

-- capnfun (capnfun1@excite.com), March 29, 2000.

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