Case Overview

Legal Principle at Issue

Whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") may be used to regulate activity that is not motivated by an economic purpose.


Reversed. Petitioning party received a favorable disposition.


Three women's organizations sued various pro-life groups under RICO, alleging that the groups were conspiring to close abortion clinics through a pattern of racketeering activity, including extortion. The district court dismissed the case, holding that RICO could be used only against "profit-generating" enterprises. The Court of Appeals affirmed. RICO, among other things, prohibits a person from participating in a pattern of racketeering. 18 U.S.C. _ 1962(c). "Racketeering activity" is broadly defined in RICO to include extortion, bribery, fraud, and other crimes. 18 U.S.C. _ 1961(1). RICO is silent as to whether the racketeering must be motivated by profit.

Importance of Case

The Court did not rule out the possibility that advocacy groups could be sued under RICO. The Court held that the language of RICO does not require that the "enterprise" be motivated by profit and therefore allowed the case to proceed. The Court, however, did not determine whether the pro-life groups' conduct violated RICO. The Court, at least in Justice Souter's concurring opinion, indicated that the First Amendment might provide a valid defense in RICO actions.

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