The temporary restraining order is the first court order this fall impacting how the final weeks of counting will unfold. Several other lawsuits are pending in courts across the country. This order is in effect until a hearing on September 17.
Groups protesting the move said the practice risked undercounting minority groups, including both legal and undocumented immigrants.
Judge Lucy Koh, who sits in California, noted in the temporary restraining order the concern from the groups suing the government “that each day that the Census does not conduct its field operations to reach and count hard to reach populations increases the inaccuracy of the Census count and thus increases their irreparable harm.”
The Census Bureau sent a message to its field operations leadership late Saturday informing them of the order from the federal judge to continue Census field work.
“The Census Bureau and the Commerce Department are obligated to comply with the Court’s Order and are taking immediate steps to do so,” the message sent to the field leadership staff read. “Enumeration will continue.”
At a hearing Friday, a government attorney argued the administration was only winding down operations in places where more than 85% to 90% of households were considered complete.
The Census Bureau, however, can mark as complete a household that has not responded to repeated mailings or several door knocks — and critics say additional attempts to contact the household could make a difference.
In August, the Trump administration announced it would truncate the 2020 Census schedule after originally planning to extend it due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This story has been updated with additional developments.