ACORN had filed a lawsuit claiming that Congress’s action violated the explicit Constitutional prohibition against bills of attainder — punishments handed out to an isolated individual or group by legislative proceedings rather than through the courts.
The judge agreed that “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.”
Representatives of ACORN and of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the suit on their behalf, were jubilant following the ruling. CCR Vice President Jules Lobel was quoted in a CCR press release as saying, “This historic decision by the Court affirms the fundamental constitutional principle that the Congress cannot be judge, jury, and executioner.”
ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis proclaimed that “the court’s decision is a victory not only for the many dedicated citizens who work with ACORN to improve their communities and promote responsible lending and homeownership, but for the Constitution and the rights of all Americans.”
Immediately following the release last September of amateur videos showing ACORN employees seemingly offering advice on how to set up an illegal prostitution ring, there was a rush to judgment on the part of both Congress and the media. There have been suggestions all along, however, that ACORN was guilty of nothing more than sloppy record-keeping and lax oversight, and leftwing website have recently begun to cast doubt on whether the heavily-edited videos themselves can stand up to scrutiny.
A Justice Department opinion issued a few weeks ago, suggesting that the Congressional vote could not legally be used to cut off federal payments to ACORN for services that had already been performed, was condemned by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as “shameful.” This new injunction is likely to call forth more of the same sort of Republican outrage.
In the end, however, all the judge appears to be saying is that if ACORN has done anything wrong, it deserves its day in court.