National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler
510 U.S. 249 (1994)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1993

Syllabus

NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN, INC., ET AL. v. SCHEIDLER ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

No. 92-780. Argued December 8, 1993-Decided January 24,1994

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.

Held:

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 offacts 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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Syllabus

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 profitseeking 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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Full Text of Opinion

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