Washington — The Supreme Court agreed to consider a crucial census question -- whether the government can keep confidential the information it uses in conducting the head count. The justices agreed to consider an appeal by the Census Bureau contesting a federal appeals court decision ordering the agency to disclose its list of street address numbers for Essex County, N.J.
Also, the high court was taken to task by Justice William Rehnquist, who chastised his fellow justices for their slow handling of death penalty cases. Writing a dissent to the court's refusal to hear such a case, Justice Rehnquist charged that capital punishment is "virtually an illusion" in America.
In other action the court:
--the second trimester of pregnancy in hospitals.
-- Refused to hear an appeal by new-spaper heiress Patricia Hearst of her armed robbery conviction stemming from her 1974 kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Miss Hearst claimed she was denied ef fective counsel.