510 U.S. 249 (1994), 92-780, National Organization For Women,Inc. v. Scheidler

Docket Nº:Case No. 92-780
Citation:510 U.S. 249, 114 S.Ct. 798, 127 L.Ed.2d 99, 62 U.S.L.W. 4073
Case Date:January 24, 1994
Court:United States Supreme Court

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510 U.S. 249 (1994)

114 S.Ct. 798, 127 L.Ed.2d 99, 62 U.S.L.W. 4073




Case No. 92-780

United States Supreme Court

January 24, 1994

Argued December 8, 1993



In this action, petitioner health care clinics alleged, among other things, that respondents, a coalition of antiabortion groups called the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) and others, were members of a nationwide conspiracy to shut down abortion clinics through a pattern of racketeering activity—including extortion under the Hobbs Act—in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) chapter of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968. They claimed that 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 clinic services; that the conspiracy injured the clinics' business and property interests; and that PLAN is a racketeering enterprise. The District Court dismissed the case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). It found that the clinics failed to state a claim under § 1962(c)—which makes it unlawful "for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate . . . in the conduct of such enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt"—because they did not allege a profit-generating purpose in the activity or enterprise. It also dismissed their conspiracy claim under § 1962(d) on the ground that the § 1962(c) and other RICO claims they made could not stand. The Court of Appeals affirmed, agreeing that there is an economic motive requirement implicit in § 1962(c)'s enterprise element.


1. The clinics have standing to bring their claim. Since their complaint was dismissed at the pleading stage, the complaint must be sustained if relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73. Nothing more than the complaint's extortion and injury allegations are needed to confer standing at this stage. Pp. 255-256.

2. RICO does not require proof that either the racketeering enterprise or the predicate acts of racketeering in § 1962(c) were motivated by an economic purpose. Nowhere in either § 1962(c) or in § 1961's

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definitions of "enterprise" and "pattern of racketeering activity" is there any indication that such a motive is required. While arguably an enterprise engaged in interstate or foreign commerce would have a profit-seeking motive, § 1962(c)'s language also includes enterprises whose activities "affect" such commerce. Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "affect" as "to have a detrimental influence on"; and an enterprise surely can have such an influence on commerce without having its own profit-seeking motives. The use of the term "enterprise" in subsections (a) and (b), where it is arguably more tied in with economic motivation, also does not lead to the inference of an economic motive requirement in subsection (c). In subsections (a) and (b), an "enterprise" is an entity acquired through illegal activity or the money generated from illegal activity: the victim of the activity. By contrast, the "enterprise" in subsection (c) connotes generally the vehicle through which the unlawful pattern of racketeering activity is committed. Since it is not being acquired, it need not have a property interest that can be acquired nor an economic motive for engaging in illegal activity; it need only be an association in fact that engages in a pattern of racketeering activity. Nor is an economic motive requirement supported by the congressional statement of findings that prefaces RICO and refers to activities that drain billions of dollars from America's economy. Predicate acts, such as the alleged extortion here, may not benefit the protesters financially, but they still may drain money from the economy by harming businesses such as the clinics. Moreover, a statement of congressional findings is a rather thin reed upon which to base a requirement neither expressed nor fairly implied from the Act's operative sections. Cf. United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576. The Department of Justice's 1981 guidelines on RICO prosecutions are also unpersuasive, since 1984 amendments broadened the focus of RICO prosecutions from those association-in-fact enterprises that exist "for the purpose of maintaining operations directed toward an economic goal" to those that are "directed toward an economic or other identifiable goal." In addition, the statutory language is unambiguous, and there is no clearly expressed intent to the contrary in the legislative history that would warrant a different construction. Nor is there an ambiguity in RICO that would suffice to invoke the rule of lenity. See Sedima, S. P. R. L. v. Imrex Co., 473 U.S. 479, 499. Pp. 256-262.

968 F.2d 612, reversed.

Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Souter, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Kennedy, J., joined, post, p. 263.

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Fay Clayton argued the cause for petitioners. With her on the briefs were Susan Valentine, Lowell E. Sachnoff, Jack L. Block, Judi A. Lamble, Alan M. Pollack, and Mitchell G. Mandell.

Miguel A. Estrada argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Days, Acting Assistant Attorney General Keeney, Deputy Solicitor General Bryson, and Cynthia A. Young.

G. Robert Blakey argued the cause for respondents. Clark D. Forsythe and Thomas Brejcha filed a brief for respondent Scheidler et al. Jay Alan Sekulow, Walter M. Weber, Keith A. Fournier, and Vincent P. McCarthy filed a brief for respondent Terry et al. Craig L. Parshall, John W. Whitehead, and Alexis I. Crow filed a brief for respondent Migliorino (Miller). Paul Benjamin Linton filed a brief for respondent Murphy.[*]

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Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are required once again to interpret the provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) chapter of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (OCCA), Pub. L. 91-452, Title IX, 84 Stat. 941, as amended, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968 (1988 ed. and Supp. IV). Section 1962(c) prohibits any person associated with an enterprise from conducting its affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity. We granted certiorari to determine whether RICO requires proof that either the racketeering enterprise or the predicate acts of racketeering were motivated by an economic purpose. We hold that RICO requires no such economic motive.


Petitioner National Organization for Women, Inc. (NOW), is a national nonprofit organization that supports the legal availability of abortion; petitioners Delaware Women's Health Organization, Inc. (DWHO), and Summit Women's Health Organization, Inc. (SWHO), are health care centers that perform abortions and other medical procedures. Respondents are a coalition of antiabortion groups called the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN), Joseph Scheidler and other individuals and organizations that oppose legal abortion, and a medical laboratory that formerly provided services to the two petitioner health care centers.[1]

Petitioners sued respondents in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging violations of the Sherman Act, 26 Stat. 209, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., and RICO's §§ 1962(a), (c), and (d), as well as several pendent statelaw claims stemming from the activities

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of antiabortion protesters at the clinics. According to respondent Scheidler's congressional testimony, these protesters aim to shut down the clinics and persuade women not to have abortions. See, e. g., Abortion Clinic Violence, Oversight Hearings before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 99th Cong., 1st and 2d Sess., 55 (1987) (statement of Joseph M. Scheidler, Executive Director, Pro-Life Action League). Petitioners sought injunctive relief, along with treble damages, costs, and attorney's fees. They later amended their complaint, and pursuant to local rules, filed a "RICO Case Statement" that further detailed the enterprise, the...

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