In a highly unusual move, a federal court in New York issued a preliminary injunctionlate Friday afternoon to stop the government from enforcing a new law Congress passed that defunded the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. The court found that the law likely violates the Constitutional prohibition on a Bill of Attainder — a law targeting a specific person or group for punishment.
As the court notes in its order, the Bill of Attainder clause has only been successfully invoked five times in the Supreme Court since the Constitution was signed. Still, Judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York ruled that this case may wind up being the sixth.
ACORN and its affiliates, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, “have raised a fundamental issue of separation of powers,” she wrote. “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.”
ACORN and its lawyers claim that Congressvoted to cut off funding for the organization, which supports the development of low-income housing and voter registration, as the result of a right-wing public relations campaign against ACORN and others for their efforts to register low-income and largely Democratic voters.