Federal judge orders census data released

Sunday, January 27, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge has ruled in favor of 16 members of Congress who filed a lawsuit seeking the release of statistically adjusted census figures.

U.S. District Court Judge Lourdes G. Baird said in the ruling that the Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, should release the adjusted data that has been compiled as part of the 2000 census.

The data is being sought in an effort to get more accurate counts of minorities, poor people and children. The Bush administration decided last year to use the raw head count rather than the adjusted figures for redrawing congressional districts and distributing government aid.

A 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling bars the use of adjusted numbers for reapportioning congressional seats, but such data can be used for local districting purposes and the disbursement of $185 billion in population-based federal grants.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and 15 other members of the House Committee on Government Reform filed the lawsuit against Commerce Secretary Don Evans in May.

The lawsuit invoked the so-called Seven Member Rule, a 73-year-old statute that gives any seven members of the reform committee special access to federal records.

Lawyers for the Commerce Department claimed the dispute was a "political skirmish" stemming from a dispute between the executive and legislative branches and argued the court should "be loathe to intervene" in the matter.

Judge Baird in her ruling dated Jan. 18 concluded that "judicial intervention is necessary here because there is no room for compromise and cooperation."

It is not known if the Commerce Department will appeal the ruling. A call made early Saturday to the department's legal office was not immediately returned.

Evans decided in March not to release the adjusted numbers, and fellow Republicans have argued that the adjustments would inject errors into a census that is more accurate than the 1990 count.

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