Baltimore You can’t find this piece in the Journal, Times, or Post. Soon it will show up in more conservative blogs with appropriate conspiratorial references and asides. Count on the misquotes and false attributions being numerous, but reading the decision by U.S. Federal Judge Nina Gershon, one cannot miss the decision’s clarity or thinly veiled anger. Gershon permanently enjoined the federal government from banning ACORN from funding and expressly directed a list of officials from Secretary of HUD Donovan to Secretary of the Treasury Geithner to OMB head Orzag to stop blocking the path and in Orzag’s case to step up and make this injustice right. Well, I guess “righter” since this is a textbook case of the damage to ACORN being irreparable as the organization seems on its last legs and fighting to survive in any form or fashion.
I would think our conservative friends who often try to claim they are big defenders of the U.S. Constitution, would be twisting in front of their computer screens a bit on this situation. The bar on “bills of attainder” in the Constitution is clear that any single entity or organization could not be politically singled out and punished without rhyme or reason without investigation or trial or particulars, but just in the herd reaction of a crowd in a theater hearing the shout, “fire!” This is an obvious and critical protection of the rights of speech and association in the Constitution where the bright line tests and protections against political whim and vengeance are as fundamental as one can imagine. Yet, to their shame we saw scores of Democrats and Republicans lined up to tar and feather ACORN without trial or charge or usually a clue. It is hard to forget that in pure political expediency the President, a former constitutional law teacher for crying out loud, joined the lynching mob in giving cover to these scurrilous attacks, which continue even as the Justice Department tries – unsuccessfully – to overturn Judge Gerson’s ruling.
Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Reform in New York which represented ACORN
Federal Judge Nina Gershon ruled unequivocally that the Congressional defunding restrictions on ACORN and all affiliated organizations were unconstitutional by breaching the U.S. Constitution’s prohibitions on Bills of Attainder and “ex post facto” laws. Reading the decision this morning, I can say that are arguments are straightforward, clear, and well researched
Judge Gershon eviscerates the sham attempts by the government to establish that their actions were not targeting ACORN by quoting from the the naked prejudicial attacks by Senators Kit Bond (R-Missouri) and Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska) and by carefully referencing the government’s admission that Congressman Darryl Issa (R-Ohio) and his own private office staff report on ACORN being a “criminal enterprise” was not commissioned by Congress, but were simply his own wild rantings, which she quotes in a footnote from one of his many press releases. The decision is understated but devastating to the government’s weak hand. Bill Quigley, our old friend from New Orleans who is now on leave from Loyola Law School and serving as legal director of the Center for Constitutional Reform in New York which represented ACORN, was quoted in an AP story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune saying he did not believe the government would appeal. That may be wistful spinning, but it is clear that whether the government appeals or not, the appeal has no chance of success against the ironclad Gershon decision. [Incidentally, Quigley was orginally contacted for help on this matter by longtime Louisiana ACORN director, Beth Butler, who set this defense in motion, but was abruptly and unjustly fired by current management inexplicably in mid-October, but that’s another kettle of fish.]