The U.S. Supreme Court says the purpose of the civil RICO law is to turn us into "private attorneys general", "diligently investigating", and filing anti-racketeering lawsuits "in the public good".

What is "civil RICO" ?
First in a series

By Udo Birnbaum

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

What is "RICO"
"RICO" stands for "Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act", a law passed by the U.S. Congress in the early 70’s. It outlaws gangster-like conduct by any person.

What conduct does it outlaw?
Well, in simple terms, it carefully defines terms such as "racketeering activity", and "pattern of racketeering activity", and proceeds to outlaw it.

Who enforces the RICO law?
Generally, the federal boys.

What is "civil RICO"?
Simply put, it is a provision put into the RICO law that allows "any person" to bring a suit for economic damage that flowed from any other person‘s violation of RICO. The exact words in the law are "by reason of the violation".

What is so unique about civil RICO?
It is one of the few, and maybe the only criminal statute, that allows one to bring a civil lawsuit, even in the local state district courts, for the violation of a criminal statute.

Are lawyers immune from RICO?
No. We are all under the law. And lawyers are especially liable under civil RICO if they engage in a "scheme to deprive of the intangible right of honest service". (They have a duty to be honest and truthful in court)

What does the U.S. Supreme Court say about civil RICO?
That there was a "Congressional objective [in enacting civil RICO with treble damages] of encouraging civil litigation not merely to compensate victims but also to turn them into private attorneys general, supplementing Government efforts by undertaking litigation in the public good". Rotella v. Wood et al., 528 U.S. 549 (2000)

Do you know of any local lawyers who handle civil RICO suits?
None, based on my inquiry with the Van Zandt County Bar Association.

Why do they not handle civil RICO?
Because lawyers and judges hate it.

Why would they hate civil RICO?
Because civil RICO cuts through what are called procedural defenses, all those things lawyers like to argue about to keep from going to trial. ( By law a properly pleaded civil RICO case has to go before a jury, and currently only about one in 300 civil cases actually goes before a jury.)

Is that not a good reason as to why civil RICO cases should not be filed, that they clog up the docket?
Should murder cases not be filed, because they have to go to a jury (unless a plea of guilty).
A sentence for murder is there to stop murders. Let us stop "civil racketeering" the same way, by letting a jury make an example of "civil racketeers" (white-collar criminals).

Where can I get more information about civil RICO?
As a starter, look at my web site, OpenJustice.US. Or go to that wonderful search engine,, type in the phrase "civil RICO", and go from there. Or else, go to a lawyer and ask him about civil RICO.

Are you a lawyer?
No, my opinions are free and "as is".  But I do speak from personal experience and concern for the public good.

"Stop Courthouse Illiteracy"
"Real progress and real reform won't happen without an understanding of the real truth".
Pol. adv pd Udo Birnbaum 540 VZ CR 2916, Eustace, TX 75124