The U.S. Supreme Court says the purpose of the civil RICO law (with treble damages) is to turn us into "private attorneys general, supplementing Government efforts by undertaking litigation in the public good". Rotella v. Wood et al., 528 U.S. 549 (2000)

What is "civil RICO" ?
Third in a series

By Udo Birnbaum

Below are my answers to questions I am frequently asked about civil RICO:

Why did you say lawyers and judges hate civil RICO?
I said that a properly pleaded civil RICO case has to go to a jury. That it cannot be disposed of by "procedural defenses" like "summary judgment". That it would make for too may trials for the courts to handle. But I now know they hate it because it has such a wide sweep.

Civil RICO has a wide sweep?
Yes, although RICO uses precise language and definitions, its focus on "rackets" catches almost any kind of racket mankind is capable of.

What do you mean by racket?
Well, rackets are hard to define. It is where every individual piece appears legitimate, but the whole thing is obviously a racket. Sort of like Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward’s famous comment about pornography, "I can‘t define it, but I know it when I see it".

Give an example of a civil RICO case.
Well, I read where State Farm Insurance had been suing under civil RICO, claiming a "Sudden-stop collision ring".

Where cars were being maneuvered to be rear-ended, everybody wound up claiming back injuries, being treated in the same clinics, represented by the same lawyers, and the settlement payments going who knows where, and State Farm being ripped off by the whole thing.

A real "racket", including the lawyers. Enron was also being sued under civil RICO. The Texas tobacco suit also had a civil RICO count.

So why did the judge come down on you when you made a civil RICO claim?
That is a real good question. I did not start that suit. A crooked Dallas lawyer was suing me, claiming I owed him an extra $18,000 on an "open account" for legal fees.

There is of course no such thing as an "open account" for legal fees. An open account requires SALE and DELIVERY of goods and services, on a regular basis, like an account of a home builder at a lumber yard.

So why did the judge come down on you for your civil RICO claim?
He said that the evidence did not show racketeering. I of course had asked for determination by jury upon ALL evidence.

I am convinced it was because I stood up against a crooked lawyer, and under civil RICO at that.

Is there any law against suing a lawyer under the anti-racketeering statute, civil RICO?
Of course not, except lawyers think they are supposed to do the suing, and get paid for it, instead of being sued.

And if this stuff went before a jury, with ALL the evidence being shown to the jury, who knows what a jury might do. We know what most people think about lawyers, just look at all the "tort reform" talk each election time.

You seem to be down on courts and lawyers?
No, not really. It is the law that is holding this country together, keeping us civilized, protecting us from each other.

Without the law we have nothing. Just look at Iraq and Afghanistan, and a lot of other countries.

Are you a lawyer?
No. But I do speak from personal experience and concern for the public good.

And I am ever more convinced that the Supreme Court is right about civil RICO.

"Stop Courthouse Illiteracy"
"Real progress and real reform won't happen without an understanding of the real truth"
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