Legal Group Joins Suit Against Census Bureau

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

Washington ( - A federal lawsuit filed against the Commerce Department and its Census Bureau will pick up a co-plaintiff today when a conservative public interest law firm joins the case on the grounds that the personally intrusive questions included in the census survey are unconstitutional.

Atlanta-based Southeastern Legal Foundation president Matt Glavin is signing on as a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by five Houston, Texas residents who contend that the Census Bureau is overstepping its bounds by asking questions that go beyond the constitutional mandate of determining how many citizens make up the United States.

The suit, filed March 23rd in a Houston federal court, seeks to block the distribution and collection of any information, other than the number of persons residing at a particular address. The plaintiffs asked for a court-ordered injunction from being prosecuted for not answering questions that go beyond the original scope of the census which is an "actual enumeration."

Last Monday, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon granted a temporary restraining order and ruled that none of the plaintiffs will be subject to actual or threatened prosecution during the course of litigating the case.

Glavin is joining the case on the contention that "it is unconstitutional to extort from information from the citizens with the threat of prosecution."

"An FBI agent or a police officer cannot go to your front door, ask you about the number of bathrooms you have or about your income and threaten you with prosecution if you don't answer the questions," Glavin told "If a law enforcement officer can't do it, certainly a $9 an hour Census worker can't do it."

According to Glavin, any question on the Census form other than the question about the number of persons living in the household is unconstitutional because added questions reduce the likelihood that citizens will participate in the Census, thereby subverting the one constitutionally mandated reason for the census.

Houston attorney Mark Brewer, representing the plaintiffs, said Harmon's ruling "effectively prevents prosecution against any American who chooses to not answer question other than the number of people living at their address."

Brewer stressed that his clients do not want to stop or interrupt the actual enumeration called for by the Constitution, but simply want to abide strictly by what is called for.

"Like most Americans, they want to obey the law, perform their civic duty and be counted. But, they don't want to be threatened with criminal penalties for failure to respond to the outrageously invasive and intrusive questions demanded by the Census Bureau," Brewer said.

The bureau insists that every question on the Census 2000 form is required by law to maintain hundreds of federal programs. Additionally, the bureau contends that collecting such information from individuals is "as much a part of our Nation's infrastructure as highways and telephone lines."

After angry citizens flooded congressional phone lines last week, some GOP Members went so far as to recommend answering only the questions that didn't seem so intrusive.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) urged his constituents to provide only "basic census information." And Sen. Chuck Hagel reportedly recommended his constituents "just fill out what you need to fill out." Otherwise, he said, "don't fill out anything you don't feel comfortable with."

Glavin said his end-goal, whether through judicial or legislative means, is to "create a bureau of enumeration whose only job is to fulfill the mandate of Article I, Section 2 (of the Constitution.)"

"Then, if you want to ask all these other questions, you can do it through a bureau of statistics as long as there are no criminal penalties associated with it," Glavin said.

In January, 1999 the SLF won a decisive U.S. Supreme Court victory prohibiting the use of statistical sampling for purposes of congressional apportionment in Census 2000.

Glavin maintains that the Administration's sampling technique is simply a ploy to conjure up imaginary Democrat voters and suggests the sampling method originates from a political family whose legacy is associated with political scandal. Glavin suggested the source of the sampling plan is none other than Commerce Secretary William Daley, son of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

"This is a family that has a long, rich history of counting people, both alive and dead," Glavin said. "It's no surprise they came up with this plan to begin with. There's one difference though, when Richard Daley, back in the old days of Chicago, when they were counting dead people, at least they were alive at one point. William Daley is creating people out of thin air," Glavin said. "So he's kind of improved upon his father's legacy."