December 17, 2009, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) asked a federal judge to amend her decision granting an injunction against Congress’ unconstitutional de-funding of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) to apply it to the new federal budget provisions signed into law by President Obama yesterday. Some provisions of the new budget include prohibitions on ACORN receiving federal funds, provisions CCR argues are unconstitutional. The United States has also filed papers asking the judge to reconsider her December 11 ruling and set it aside. There will be a hearing on these motions Tuesday December 22. The time for the hearing has not yet been set.
Last Friday, CCR won an important preliminary injunction in its case charging Congress with violating the Bill of Attainder provision in the U.S. Constitution, violating the Fifth Amendment right to due process, and infringing on the First Amendment right to freedom of association by targeting affiliated and allied organizations, as well. The U.S. Constitution forbids lawmakers from singling out a person or group for punishment without a fair investigation and trial in order to protect against political retribution without due process.
On Sunday, Congress passed a new budget that included three specific references targeting ACORN for de-funding. President Obama signed the budget into law yesterday.
Said CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley, “ A federal judge has already ruled that Congress cannot act unconstitutionally as judge, jury, and executioner in the case of ACORN, yet they passed a budget doing precisely that just days later, and President Obama signed it. There should be no place for political retribution and grandstanding in the law.”
In its December 11 decision, the court found that there is a likelihood the plaintiffs will be able to show that Congress’ targeted defunding of ACORN violates the Constitution’s prohibition against Bills of Attainder, legislative acts which single out a specific person or group for punishment. The court’s ruling stated, “The plaintiffs have raised a fundamental issue of separation of powers. They have been singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or administrative, process adjudicating guilt... The public will not suffer harm by allowing the plaintiffs to continue work on contracts duly awarded by federal agencies...”
CCR attorneys said members of Congress violated the Constitution by declaring an organization guilty of a crime and punishing it and its members without benefit of a trial.
Last week, the former attorney general of Massachusetts released an independent report on ACORN, and complete transcripts showed that the infamous videotapes had been doctored and fully misrepresented the actions of the workers shown.
The plaintiffs are ACORN, the ACORN Institute, and the New York ACORN Housing Company. The suit is ACORN v. USA and was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of New York.
Jules Lobel is lead counsel in the case; other counsel include CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley and CCR Staff Attorney Darius Charney; CCR Cooperating Attorneys Bill Goodman and Julie Hurwitz of Goodman & Hurwitz, Detroit, MI; and attorney Arthur Schwartz of New York.
For more information, go to our ACORN v. USA case overview page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.