Case Summary (Originally Ohio v. Coggins)

On February 25, 2021 the State of Ohio filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Acting Secretary of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Acting Director of the U.S. Census Bureau challenging the Census Bureau's delayed release of the 2020 Census population data necessary for redistricting to the states. Federal statute requires the Secretary of Commerce, who oversees the Census Bureau, to tabulate and report population data to the states "as expeditiously as possible" following the census, and "in any event no later than one year after the decennial census date." The decennial census date was April 1, 2020, and therefore the statutory deadline for providing such data to the states was no later than March 31, 2021. The plaintiffs alleged the delayed release date of September 30, 2021 would prevent the state from meeting its constitutionally prescribed deadlines for completing its redistricting process, and in making this decision the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau were violating both the Census Act (13 U.S.C. ยง 141(c)) and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs sought a declaration from the court that the defendants' decision to delay the release was unlawful and requested that the court set aside that decision and issue an injunction either prohibiting the defendants from releasing Ohio's redistricting data beyond March 31, 2021 or otherwise requiring the defendants to provide the state with such data at the earliest date deemed equitable.

On March 24, 2021 the district court denied the plaintiffs request for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. Noting that the U.S. Census Bureau had already indicated it would be "impossible" for them to provide redistricting data to the states earlier than the delayed release date, the court found the plaintiffs lacked standing because the injury alleged was not redressable by the court. Additionally, the court found the plaintiffs had not sufficiently alleged an injury caused by the defendants' actions because under the Ohio Constitution, the state had other alternatives to using census data to redraw its districts and the plaintiffs had not claimed that these alternatives were less reliable than the census data, but rather that the defendants were violating their statutory duties. That same day, the plaintiffs appealed the district court's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Oral arguments were held before a panel of Sixth Circuit judges on May 12, 2021. On May 18, 2021 the Sixth Circuit reversed the district's court's judgment and remanded the case, concluding that the State of Ohio had met all three requirements to establish standing because the Secretary's decision resulted in injury to Ohio and that injury was redressable by the court. On May 25, 2021 the parties jointly moved to hold the case in abeyance after reaching an agreement whereby the Census Bureau would provide Ohio with legacy format redistricting data by August 16, 2021 and periodically update the court as to the status of such data in the following months.

On August 12, 2021 the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2020 Census legacy format redistricting data and, on the following day, the State of Ohio moved to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit, which the district court granted on August 16, 2021, thereby ending the lawsuit.

Case Library

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio - 3:21-cv-00064

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit - No. 21-3294