Friday, December 11, 2009

House ban on ACORN grants is ruled unconstitutional

More Friday night news the left is hoping you won't see.  U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon issued a temporary injunction blocking the enforcement of a funding ban on ACORN.  From the Wall Street Journal:

Congress cut off funding for Acorn -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- in September after Web sites and TV news outlets played secretly recorded videos in which employees of an affiliated organization offered advice on how to set up brothels and avoid paying taxes.

Acorn sued the federal government in November, arguing Congress had violated the Constitution by singling out the group. It says it has fired employees suspected of wrongdoing.

U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon in New York issued a temporary injunction late Friday. Her ruling is expected to stand until the current restrictions on Acorn expire next Friday as part of a temporary spending bill. A permanent ban, the Defund Acorn Act, has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.

Acorn's lawyers argued in part that Congress had violated the Constitution's ban on bills of attainder, legislation that punishes a specific person or group without the rights that courts provide. In making its argument, the Acorn lawyers included quotes from several Republicans accusing Acorn of being a criminal organization that deserved to be punished.

In her decision, the judge wrote that those statements "underline the punitive nature of the government's purportedly non-punitive reason" for banning Acorn.

The Justice Department said it was reviewing the decision.
An opinion issued by the Obama Justice Department last month indicates that this will be a very short review.  From Jake Tapper:

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel this week posted a legal opinion saying that the Obama administration may continue paying the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) for contracts signed before Congress in September passed -- and President Obama in October signed -- legislation banning federal funds from going to ACORN.

The opinion was written on Oct. 23 by Acting Assistant Attorney General David Barron in response to a request for clarification from the deputy general counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development as to the full meaning of the legislative language, which states, "None of the funds made available by this joint resolution or any prior Act may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations."

You can read the opinion HERE.
Two weeks after the Justice Department opinion was written, but before it was released to the public, ACORN filed its lawsuit.  It appears that opinion was a green light to ACORN to move forward with its lawsuit against the government.  It could also be argued that it sent a clear signal to Judge Gershon that it was okay to grant the injunction in favor of ACORN, effectively overturning the intent of the Congress.

Prior to Gershon's ruling, the Washington Examiner reported on a YouTube interview of Michelle Bachmann:

Rep. Michele Bachman, R-MN, calls Attorney General Eric Holder’s position that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to defund ACORN “laughable on its face.”

“If we create funding, we can certainly take away funding,” Bachman said in this YouTube interview.
Perhaps the DOJ opinion was "laughable on its face."  But ACORN's CEO Bertha Lewis is the one laughing tonight.

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