ACORN finally won a round in its battle with Congress and the Obama administration on Friday, as a federal court ruled the United States acted unconstitutionally by targeting the organization in an attempt to withhold funding.
Judge Nina Gershon found that Congress’ attempt to limit ACORN funding violated the Constitution’s ban against government action that specifically singles out a person or group. That clause, officially known as a ban against "Bills of Attainder," is based on the idea that the legislative branch must not act like a court or jury in punishing individuals.
"The plaintiffs have raised a fundamental issue of separation of powers," writes Judge Gershon in the opinion. "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."
Several observers, including MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow and The Nation‘s own Jeremy Scahill, had stressed that the ACORN bill was probably unconstitutional, and that the amount of money involved was quite small.
The Obama administration is defending the law in this case; it is expected to continue to argue against Friday’s preliminary injunction in later court proceedings.