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Federal judge orders Treasury to show probable cause for charity asset freeze

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio [official website] on Monday ruled [order, PDF] that the US Treasury Department [official website] must show probable cause for freezing the assets of an Ohio-based charity suspected of having ties to the militant Islamic group Hamas [JURIST news archive]. Judge James Carr had previously ruled [JURIST report] in August that the federal government could not freeze the assets of KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development Inc. without probable cause. Carr had also ruled that the government must tell the organization the basis for the asset freeze and give the organization the opportunity to defend itself. In Monday's order, Carr wrote, "I thus find that it is within the scope of my power to remedy constitutional violations to order this post-hoc probable cause showing. I recognize that this is an unusual and atypical remedy, but this is an unusual and atypical situation." The suit [ACLU backgrounder] was brought in 2008 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. ACLU attorney Alexander Abdo welcomed the ruling [press release], saying, "[b]y requiring Congress to step in and fix the government's unconstitutional terrorist-designation scheme, the ruling restores a critical check on executive power."

In February 2009, several advocacy, rights, and philanthropic groups filed an amicus curiae brief [text, PDF; JURIST report] in the case, arguing against the classification of some charitable groups as terrorist organizations without due process. The brief argued that the designation of charitable groups as terrorist organizations without due process violates the groups' constitutional rights and discourage and undermine their humanitarian aid efforts. Kindhearts had argued that the Treasury's asset freeze, investigation, and refusal to allow KindHearts to dispute the findings were arbitrary and capricious and violated KindHearts' First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment [text] rights.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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