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" ?
Second in a series

By Udo Birnbaum

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

What is "civil RICO"?
Simply put, it is a provision put into the anti-racketeering law ("RICO") that allows one to bring a suit for damage that resulted from any other person‘s violation of RICO.

You mentioned that civil RICO cuts through "procedural defenses". What are those?
Well, simply put, it is all those papers that lawyers write to "show" the court that one does not really have a "cause", asking the judge to throw the case out.

Like what?
Well, like "summary judgment".

What is that?
That is when a lawyers claims that a case is missing an "element".

What are "elements"?
Well, lawyers speak English like most of us, except some of the words can have a different meaning. To them "elements" are what makes up a "cause of action". You got to have all of the "elements" to a cause of action.

Who decides on the "elements"?
Well, other lawyers who are judges. It is pretty well based on "precedent", what has been done before, for thousands of years.

How can our law be that old?
Well, we took a lot of it over from the English law, and they got it from the Romans, who got it from the Greeks, who got it from Mesopotamia down Iraq way thousands of years before Christ.
Modified, of course.

Yes, by our Constitution. And the laws passed by legislatures. This is called "statutory" law, as opposed to the "common law".

Common law? What is that?
The law of precedent, commonly referred to as "tort law". Remember all the talk in Austin about "tort reform".

Give an example of a "tort" cause.
Well, a "negligence" case, for example. The "elements" are 1) someone has a duty to do something, 2) he failed to do it, 3) someone was "damaged", as the lawyers say, and 4) it was "proximately caused by" the failure to do what one had a duty to do (like maybe keep banana peels off his sidewalk).

So how can someone get "summary judgment" on a tort case?
Suppose someone sues, claiming that someone was negligent in not painting his house green. Well, one normally does not have a duty to paint one’s house green. Element 1 is missing. Presto, summary judgment against him. Case out. Oversimplified, of course.

What does all this have to do with civil RICO?
Well, simply put, civil RICO gets around element one (1), duty. We all have a duty to obey the law. And RICO is the law.
Also civil RICO gets around "summary judgment". More on that next time.

Are you a lawyer?
No. 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