- In Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Comm. v. McGrathMessage 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2012View Source
In Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Comm. v. McGrath, 341 US 123 (1951) the Attorney General added a bunch of organizations to a list of Communist sympathizers without any input from those organizations as to whether they really were worthy of that designation. His action affected their memberships and their ability to raise funds so they sued for an injunction. This sounded a lot like what the IRS does. They designate you a “taxpayer” and a citizen or resident of the United States without any input from you and try as you might they will not change those designations. Here is what the court said in the case:
“*139 When the acts of the Attorney General and of the members of the Loyalty Review Board are stripped of the Presidential authorization claimed for them by the respondents, they stand, on the face of these complaints, as unauthorized publications of admittedly unfounded designations of the complaining organizations as "Communist." Their effect is to cripple the functioning and damage the reputation of those organizations in their respective communities and in the nation. The complaints, on that basis, sufficiently charge that such acts violate each complaining organization's common-law right to be free from defamation. "A communication is defamatory if it tends so to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him." Restatement, Torts, § 559.
“These complaints do not raise the question of the personal liability of public officials for money damages caused by their ultra vires acts. See Spalding v. Vilas, 140*140 161 U. S. 483. They ask only for declaratory and injunctive relief striking the names of the designated organizations from the Attorney General's published list and, as far as practicable, correcting the public records.
“The respondents are not immune from such a proceeding. Only recently, this Court recognized that "the action of an officer of the sovereign (be it holding, taking or otherwise legally affecting the plaintiff's property) can be regarded as so `illegal' as to permit a suit for specific relief against the officer as an individual . . . if it is not within the officer's statutory powers or, if within those powers. . . if the powers, or their exercise in the particular case, are constitutionally void." Larson v. Domestic and Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U. S. 682, 701-702. The same is true here, where the acts complained of are beyond the officer's authority under the Executive Order.
Finally, the standing of the petitioners to bring these suits is clear. The touchstone to justiciability is injury 141*141 to a legally protected right and the right of a bona fide charitable organization to carry on its work, free from defamatory statements of the kind discussed, is such a right.
It is unrealistic to contend that because the respondents gave no orders directly to the petitioners to change their course of conduct, relief cannot be granted against what the respondents actually did. We long have granted relief to parties whose legal rights have been violated by unlawful public action, although such action made no direct demands upon them. Columbia Broadcasting System v. United States, 316 U. S. 407; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510; Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U. S. 60; Truax v. Raich, 239 U. S. 33. The complaints here amply allege past and impending serious damages caused by the actions of which the petitioners complain. Id. @ 139-41
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