Judicial Watch Petitions Supreme Court to Hear RICO Lawsuit against Businesses that Hire Illegal Alien Criminals
JULY 31, 2008
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit filed by Canyon County, Idaho against four large employers of illegal aliens (Canyon County v. Syngenta Seeds, Inc., et al.). Canyon County alleges that during their employment, some of these illegal aliens committed crimes, thereby costing the county millions of dollars for criminal justice services as well as health and welfare services. Judicial Watch filed the petition for Canyon County with co-counsel Howard W. Foster, a renowned RICO expert with the Chicago law firm, Johnson & Bell, LTD.
In 1996, Congress amended RICO to include certain immigration offenses. Nonetheless, the District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Canyon County’s lawsuit, prompting Judicial Watch’s Supreme Court petition. Swift Beef Company is named as one of the defendants.
There are two central questions that arise from the appellate court ruling. First, does the term “business or property” in RICO apply to the cost of services provided by a government entity? And, secondly, can a court simply dismiss a lawsuit based on a lack of injury directly resulting from the RICO activity, without first determining if any direct injury had been caused?
With respect to the application of the term “business or property” to government services, lower courts have been split, prompting the need for resolution by the Supreme Court. According to Judicial Watch’s petition: The Ninth Circuit Court’s conclusion “that a government entity cannot sue to recover damages unless it is acting as ‘an ordinary marketplace actor’ under RICO, conflicts with the Seventh and Eighth Circuits’ conclusions which have rejected the need for any such marketplace or commercial injury.” Judicial Watch’s petition also reminded the Supreme Court of its explicit instruction to lower courts in a previous ruling to “not read limitations into RICO.”
With respect to the question of “proximate cause” or “direct injury,” Judicial Watch’s petition argues that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals bypassed the important analysis as to whether or not a direct injury resulted from the alleged RICO activity. “Every other Circuit analyzes proximate causation by first determining if the plaintiff’s alleged injury flows directly from the RICO violation, or is derivative of an injury to another party,” Judicial Watch wrote in its petition.
“RICO is a tool that can be used to fight illegal immigration. Businesses who hire illegal aliens could be subject to RICO lawsuits,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The lower courts in this case have ignored the plain language of the RICO statute and we hope the Supreme Court takes this opportunity to reaffirm the rule of law.”
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