National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler

PETITIONER: National Organization for Women, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Scheidler
LOCATION: Kiryas Joel Village School District

DOCKET NO.: 92-780
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 510 US 249 (1994)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1993
DECIDED: Jan 24, 1994

ADVOCATES:
Fay Clayton - Argued the cause for the petitioners
G. Robert Blakey - Argued the cause for the respondents
Miguel A. Estrada - Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal

Facts of the case

The National Organization for Women (NOW) sued a coalition of anti-abortion groups called the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. N.O.W. alleged that Scheidler and other anti-abortion protesters were members in a nationwide conspiracy to obstruct women's access to abortion clinics through a pattern of racketeering activity including the actual or implied threat of violence. The District Court dismissed the suit, holding that the voluntary contributions are not proceeds of racketeering and that a "racketeering enterprise" must have an economic motive, a fact that NOW could not demonstrate. The Court of Appeals affirmed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Question

Does RICO require that an organization, to be defined as a racketeering enterprise, must be acting in pursuit of an economic motive?

Media for National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1993 in National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 24, 1994 in National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler

William H. Rehnquist:

The next case is No. 92-780, the National Organization for Women versus Joseph Scheidler.

The petitioner is the National Organization for Women and others, alleged that the respondents, who are a coalition of anti-abortion groups called "The Pro-Life Action Network" and others, were members of a nationwide conspiracy to shutdown abortion clinics.

The petitioners charged that these respondents conspired to use threatened or actual force, violence or fear to induce clinic employees, doctors, and patients to give up their jobs, their right to practice medicine, and their right to obtain an abortion, all in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, nicknamed for acronym RICO.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of this action, saying that an economic motive is required in order to bring a legal action like this.

In the unanimous opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reverse the Court of Appeals ruling that RICO contains an implicit economic motive requirement.

Nowhere in either Section 1962(c) of the Act or Section 1961's definition of enterprise and pattern or racketeering activity.

Is there any indication that such an economic requirement is required?

We find that the statutory language is unambiguous and there is no clearly expressed intent of a contrary in the legislative history that would warrant a different construction, nor is there any ambiguity in this language that we have been talking about that would suffice to invoke the rule of lenity, applicable to a criminal statute.

We, therefore, hold that RICO contains no economic motive requirement, and petitioners may maintain this action if the respondents indeed conducted the enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity.

So, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.

Justice Souter has filed a concurring opinion joined by Justice Kennedy.