Oct. 9 (UPI) -- An appeals court Tuesday denied the Trump administration's request to block Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' testimony in lawsuits regarding his decision to add a question about U.S. citizenship status to the 2020 Census.
The three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order rejecting the Justice Department's request to halt Ross' deposition, but also extended a stay on the deposition for 48 hours to allow the administration or the lawsuits' plaintiffs "to seek relief from the Supreme Court."
"The District Court's order requiring the deposition of Secretary Ross does not amount to 'a judicial usurpation of power or a clear abuse of discretion,'" the order stated.
Tuesday's ruling upheld an order by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York last month, which stated Ross needs to testify because he was "personally and directly involved in the decision, and the unusual process leading to it, to an unusual degree."
In its order, the 2nd Circuit judges said the Justice Department hadn't made sufficient showing to overturn a discovery-related order like Furman's
"We find that the District Court did not clearly abuse its discretion in authorizing extra-record discovery based on a preliminary showing of 'bad faith or improper behavior.' The District Court, which is intimately familiar with the voluminous record, applied controlling case law and made detailed factual findings supporting its conclusion that Secretary Ross likely possesses unique firsthand knowledge central to the Plaintiffs' claims. As the District Court noted, deposition testimony by three of Secretary Ross's aides indicated that only the Secretary himself would be able to answer the Plaintiffs' questions," the court said.
Lawyers from dozens of states were scheduled to question John Gore -- head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division -- about the census question on Wednesday, before deposing Ross on Thursday.
Last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected the administration's request to temporarily stop the depositions and requests for internal documents for the lawsuits, but left the opportunity for the administration to request they be blocked permanently.
The Trump administration is expected to appeal the 2nd Circuit Court's ruling Tuesday to the Supreme Court, and the issue could be the first case publicly voted on by newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh.