I’m Not A Lawyer, But I Play One On The Internet

Well, ACORN is just the gift that keeps on giving. They’re suing the two young people who got so many of their employees to go along with the most absurd illegal plans, along with those who didn’t make the videos but merely reported on them.

They might have some very, very smart lawyers (the best our money can buy), but what might work in a courtroom is utterly doomed in the court of public opinion. And as a non-lawyer who once toyed with going into law, I see several areas where a judge (especially in very, very blue Maryland) might rule in their favor, by the precise letter of the law, but most people would laugh in their faces.

For example:

Standing. ACORN is suing on behalf of the videotaped employees, claiming that their right to privacy was violated. Unfortunately, those are ex-employees — ACORN fired them for what they were caught doing on the videos. Further, ACORN’s CEO — I’m sorry, “chief organizer” — publicly thanked the people they’re now suing for helping bring these former employees to light.

Expectation of privacy. The crux of the argument about the taping being illegal is that the ACORN employees were conducting themselves out of the public eye. But in the videos, other people keep wandering into and out of the office. Kind of hard to argue that one reasonably expected privacy while others keep popping in and out of the room.

Bill Of Attainder: ACORN says that the Constitution’s prohibition of Bills Of Attainder — laws enacted to affect only a single individual — keeps them from having their funding blocked. They might have a technical, legal argument, but there are some common sense observations that apply here.

For one, ACORN isn’t a person, but an organization. Corporations might be, in many ways, the equivalent of people in the eyes of the law, but they just aren’t.

For another, while they might have an argument under the “equal protection” clause, there is simply no legal right to get money from the federal government. It’s a privilege, and privileges can be restricted or revoked at any time. Should the government decide that they don’t want to subsidize ACORN, then that’s just fine. If ACORN has let itself grow entirely dependent on government funding, and will not survive without it, then that’s their problem. (Not likely; they have plenty of wealthy friends who will bail them out.) The government has no obligation to keep giving them money.

I’m certain that ACORN’s lawyers will construct very solid legal arguments on each of those grounds, with lots of precedents and case law and reams and reams of footnotes. They very well might even win their cases.

But they’ll lose in the court of public opinion. And, I believe, they’ll lose their unspoken goal — to scare future critics into silence. They want to make an example out of these young people by hounding them with this lawsuit, and they want to make nervous the “deep pockets” at Fox News and Big Government for airing the videotapes.

ACORN is going down. At this point, they’re just trying to not go down alone.

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