Even before Attorney General Bill Barr reveals his super secret strategy to defy the Supreme Court and get the citizenship question onto the Census, his plans appear to have hit a snag. Yesterday, US District Judge Jesse Furman put the kibosh on Barr's motion to yank the Federal Programs lawyers who've been on the case this whole time and replace them with people who have recently been litigating consumer fraud and immigration suits. So the original lawyers -- and everything they promised the court -- are here to stay. In other words, the kids stay in the picture.

No one knows exactly why the Justice Department moved to withdraw the appearance of the very attorneys whose IRL job is to defend the government in suits like this. Maybe the Federal Programs lawyers refused to continue with whatever harebrained, Hail Mary scheme Barr cooked up to show Trump and Leonard Leo that he's giving his all to the party's efforts to ratfuck the Census. But just as likely, DOJ hopes to wipe the slate clean to roll out their new and improved Very Extremely Legal Good Faith Not At All Racist Rationale for including the citizenship question on the 2020 survey.

The current lawyers have made multiple representations to the court that June 30, 2019 was the absolute last date to finalize the Census forms to get them printed in time for 2020, and thus the case had to be heard on an expedited schedule. They also explicitly promised less than two weeks ago that this issue was definitively settled, and that the Commerce Department (which is in charge of the Census) would accept Justice John Roberts's ruling as the final word. Now that the government plans to go into extra innings, they'd like to bring in some players who didn't personally vouch for a bunch of stuff that has just been rendered false -- or at the very least, inoperative -- by presidential shit tweet.

Hence Judge Furman's stern reminder that, under Rule 1.4 of the Local Rules of the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, no lawyer gets out of a case without 'splaining why and getting the judge's permission.

Thus, when considering whether to grant a motion to withdraw under Rule 1.4, a court must analyze two factors: the reasons for withdrawal and the impact of the withdrawal on the timing of the proceeding. With respect to the latter factor, a court must consider "the posture of the case" and "whether the prosecution of the suit is likely to be disrupted by the withdrawal of counsel." Measured against those standards, Defendants' motion is patently deficient (except as to Brett Shumate and Alice LaCour, who have left the Department of Justice and the Civil Division, respectively). Defendants provide no reasons, let alone "satisfactory reasons," for the substitution of counsel. Local Civ. R. 1.4. And as to the second factor, Defendants' mere "expect[ation] that withdrawal of current counsel will [not] cause any disruption" is not good enough, particularly given the circumstances of this case[.] [Internal citations omitted.]

It's not, like, a good sign when the judge calls your motion "patently deficient." And indeed, Judge Furman blocked the move to release the lawyers, although he allowed that they were certainly free to file again and present some actual reasons to be let off this case if they're so inclined. But not even bothering to pretend they're washing their hair en route to taking a sick kid to their dog's funeral? Nope, not gonna cut it.

Naturally, Donald Trump knows this is just a Deep State Obama plot to do him in.

Spoiler Alert: It could not be a first. That's why they have rule about it.

There's been no word yet on whether the judges on the case in California and Maryland will allow the DOJ to pull a switcheroo with counsel, but in New York, that shit's not going to fly. Bill Barr might be able to get rid of those lawyers if he actually fired them all, but even he wouldn't be that crazy.



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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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