Court Orders Restoration of Acorn’s Federal Funding

A judge has ordered that Acorn’s federal funding be restored. Politco reports:

A judge in New York ordered that ACORN’s federal funding be restored, rolling back a slew of Congressional actions that sought to stop taxpayer money from flowing to the community group on the heels of a fall full of embarrassments for it.  

Nina Gershon, a district judge in New York, issued a preliminary injunction directing the department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury department to disregard a bill signed into law by President Obama that prohibited federal funding of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. 

“The question here is only whether the Constitution allows Congress to declare that a single, named organization is barred from all federal funding in the absence of a trial,” Gershon wrote in her opinion. “Because it does not, and because the plaintiffs have shown the likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction, I grant the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.” 

Gershon said that “none of the government’s justifications stand up to scrutiny” and that “no non-punitive rational” is obvious. 

ACORN was the subject of bipartisan disdain in September, after undercover videos were released that seemed to show the organization’s employees offering advice on how to break the law. Republicans and Democrats voted to stop federal funding of the group – a measure signed into law by the president on the back of an appropriations bill. 

In November, the group sued the federal government, claiming that the provision, attached to the legislative branch appropriations bill, was a bill of attainder – unconstitutional legislation that unfairly punishes one group. As part of this lawsuit, ACORN sought a restoration of federal funding.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has described this as a historic victory for Constitutional rights:

According to Jules Lobel, CCR Vice-President and Cooperating Attorney: “This historic decision by the Court affirms the fundamental constitutional principle that the Congress cannot be judge, jury, and executioner.”

CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley added, “This ruling protects not only ACORN but all other organizations or individuals that Congress unfairly targets.  The clearly partisan push by the far right to punish those it politically disagrees with has ended here.”

Naturally some right wing blogs are claiming that this is a case of judicial activism. Judicial activism as they use the term basically means a court has made a decision contrary to their views.

Last week a Massachusetts Attorney General found that they had not violated any laws. A recent article in Editor & Publisher (which I previously linked to here) puts the controversy over Acorn into perspective.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
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  2. 2
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I’m tremendously pleased to see the courts showing sense on this issue, especially in the case of Judge Gershon’s ruling.
     
    Right-wing claims of ‘judicial activism’ are particularly amusing to me.
     
    This is a case where ‘strict constructionism’ clearly applies without needing to be pointed in its direction. The Constitution strictly and explicitly forbids bills of attainder. A federal law penalizing one organization by name in the absence of legal proof of wrongdoing is a bill of attainder. Plaine and simple.
     
    By the logic offered by conservative advocates of strict constructionism, the decision reached is the only legal decision possible because constitutional law is SO explicit on this matter.
     
    Conservative ideology has completely lost its meaning when the right criticizes a judge for a ruling based on the strict construction of the law as written.
     

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