Saturday, December 12, 2009

ACORN Wins Federal Lawsuit

As I figured would happen, the Republican led effort to cut off federal funding to ACORN was ruled unconstitutional yesterday in federal court.

US District Judge Nina Gershon handed them a legal victory by issuing a preliminary injunction against the government. Judge Gershon said it's in the public's interest for the organization to continue receiving federal funding.

ACORN's lawsuit was filed in federal court in Brooklyn and sought reinstatement of the funds that were cut off as the result of a punitive law that passed and took effect October 1.

ACORN claimed in its lawsuit that named the US federal government, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the secretary of the Treasury as defendants. that Congress' decision to cut off its funding was unconstitutional because it punitively targeted an individual organization.

Gershon said in her ruling that ACORN had 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 even administrative, process adjudicating guilt."

Bill Quigley, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of ACORN and two affiliates, said the decision sends a sharp message to Congress that it can't single out an individual or organization without due process.

"It's a resounding victory for ACORN," he said. "I'd be surprised if the government decides to appeal."

"Today's ruling is a victory for the constitutional rights for all Americans and for the citizens who work through ACORN to improve their communities and promote responsible lending and homeownership," ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis said in a statement.

ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is an organization that advocates for low-income and minority homebuyers and residents in communities served by its offices around the country.

Right wing critics and media pundits say it has violated the tax-exempt status of some of its affiliates by engaging in partisan political activities and have relentlessly attacked the organization.

ACORN has been dogged by right wing allegations of voter-registration fraud and embezzlement and been used by the Republicans to portray Democrats as corrupt.

It has been a goal of the conservative movement to kill ACORN, and the laws provisions were designed by its Republican sponsors to specifically single out the organization. It was extended on October 31 and was set to either expire or be extended again on December 18.

Quigley said millions of dollars in funds should begin to flow again to ACORN next week. Judge Gershon said the "public will not suffer harm by allowing the plaintiffs to continue work on contracts duly awarded by federal agencies."

Justice Department spokeswoman Beverley Lumpkin said the agency was reviewing the decision and declined to comment further.

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