June 24, 2010, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) argued a case challenging Congress’s unconstitutional defunding of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The case charges 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. CCR attorneys say 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. CCR won in both earlier court appearances and today defended the wins before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
Said CCR Cooperating Attorney Jules Lobel, “Congress cannot act as judge, jury, and executioner. We have due process in this country, and our Constitution forbids lawmakers from singling out a person or group for punishment without a fair investigation and trial. Congress, as well as individuals and organizations must abide by the rule of law.”
The lawsuit seeks to stop Congress from singling out an organization for punishment without proper investigation or due process. 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.
CCR Attorney Darius Charney said, “We are used to seeing political grandstanding in Congress, but when it crosses the line into violating the Constitution, it has to stop. Big banks, pharmaceutical companies, and private government contractors that have skirted the law are rewarded with bailouts, tax credits, and billions of dollars in new contracts. Even BP is getting our tax dollars. Companies with multiple criminal convictions remain in favor, while Congress, without a shred of due process, joined in the scapegoating of an organization that helps average Americans going through hard times to get homes, pay their taxes, and vote. Who’s next?”
Last week, a federal government report cleared ACORN of false charges of misusing federal funds and election fraud.
Since the vote to temporarily ban all federal funds from ACORN and its affiliates, related organizations have suffered. For example, in an affidavit filed in today’s lawsuit, an ACORN affiliate wholly separate from the national organization charges it has been unfairly affected. The organization, ACORN Institute (AI), had grants pending to provide computer training, asthma education, tax preparation, and GED classes, among other programs. The affidavit avers that no grant the organization has received and administrated “has ever even allegedly involved any misconduct, misappropriation, fraud or other illegal conduct. AI has never been indicted nor convicted of any crime, nor … has any AI employee ever been indicted or convicted of a crime in conjunction with any work they have done for AI. AI has never been denied any grant from any federal agency due to fraud or other alleged misconduct.”
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.