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Pearl Right to Sue over Granting of Public Funds Upheld by Federal Judge

Leo Pfeffer, special counsel of the American Jewish Congress, said yesterday he was “deeply gratified” by a Federal Court decision late last week upholding the right of a civic organization to sue in its own name against the granting of public funds to private schools. In the decision, Judge Morris E. Lasker approved the motion of the Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL) for a three-judge Federal Court to hear PEARL’s suit against the 1970 state law permitting $28 million in such aid. PEARL had argued that the law violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Art. XI, Sect. 3 of the New York State Constitution, the latter the so-called “Blaine Amendment.” Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz had argued unsuccessfully, on behalf of the state, that PEARL had no standing as a taxpayer, that its suit should have been filed on the state level, and that the 1970 law was constitutional.

Pfeffer declared that “Should the U.S. Supreme Court uphold this (Lasker) decision, it will mark a major turning-point in American jurisprudence, one that recognizes the validity of ‘associational jurisprudence.” He defined that last phrase as “based on the reality that unless the single individual can act in association with like minded persons through civic organizations, many serious violations of the Constitution will be free from judicial challenge and therefore immune to correction.” The Lasker decision, he added, makes the individual’s right to sue “not merely theoretical but practical.” PEARL is composed of 29 civic and religious organizations including the AJCongress and the American Jewish Committee.