Civil RICO:  Points to Remember




Paul Andrew Mitchell, B.A., M.S.

Private Attorney General, Federal Witness

and Qualified Criminal Investigator



1.        The Civil RICO statute at 18 U.S.C. 1964 expressly authorizes civil remedies, in addition to any criminal remedies that also exist to prosecute organized crime.


2.        State courts have original jurisdiction to enforce the Civil RICO statute at 18 U.S.C. 1964.  See Tafflin v. Levitt and Lou v. Belzberg, Rice v. Janovich and Village at Camelback v. Carr.


3.        The Civil Case Cover Sheet for the Superior Court of California shows “RICO” as a standard case category.


4.        A pattern of racketeering is expressly defined to mean only two (2) RICO “predicate acts” during any given 10-year period.  See 18 U.S.C. 1961(5).


5.        The federal statute at 18 U.S.C. 1961 itemizes all RICO predicate acts.  The most common are mail fraud, extortion, obstruction of justice, obstruction of a criminal investigation, and witness tampering or retaliation.


6.        Violations of State and federal laws both qualify as RICO predicate acts.  18 U.S.C. 1961(1)(B) itemizes a long list of federal offenses that qualify as predicate acts.


7.        Any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, obscene matter, controlled substances or extortion is also a RICO predicate act, if it is chargeable under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.  See 18 U.S.C. 1961(1)(A).


8.        The Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution elevates all RICO statutes to the status of supreme Law, and resolves any conflicts with State laws in favor of the RICO statutes.  Whenever conflicts occur, State laws and State constitutional provisions have no standing (“notwithstanding”).


9.        Congress intended the RICO statutes to be liberally construed.  See 84 Stat. 947, Sec. 904, Oct. 15, 1970.  However, this liberal construction rule was never codified anywhere in Title 18 of the U.S. Code, even though Title 18 has been enacted into positive law by Act of Congress.


10.      A specific Congressional objective is encouraging civil litigation to supplement government efforts to deter and penalize the practices prohibited by the RICO statutes.


11.      Another objective of Civil RICO is to turn victims into prosecutors, “private attorneys general”, dedicated to eliminating racketeering activity.  See Rotella v. Wood.


12.      Civil RICO specifically has a further purpose of encouraging potential private plaintiffs to investigate diligently.  Rotella v. Wood.


13.      Organized crime is a serious national problem for which public prosecutorial resources are deemed inadequate.  See Agency Holding Corp. v. Malley-Duff & Associates.


14.      Civil RICO authorizes triple damages (3x) to be awarded to successful private plaintiffs.  See 18 U.S.C. 1964(c).


15.      The provision for triple damages is justified by the expected benefit of suppressing racketeering activity, an object pursued the sooner the better.  Rotella v. Wood.


16.      The “private attorney general” concept holds that a successful private party plaintiff is also entitled to recovery of his legal expenses, including attorney fees, if he has advanced the policy inherent in public interest legislation on behalf of a significant class of persons.  Dasher v. Housing Authority of City of Atlanta.


17.      A private attorney general may appear in court without the license to practice law that is required of all State Bar members.  See sections 6067 and 6068 of the California Business and Professions Code.


18.      A private attorney general may appear in court “ex rel.” on behalf of the “United States” (i.e. the federal government), the State of California, the People of California or the People of the United States of America.  Confer at “Ex relatione” in Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition.


19.      Civil RICO statutes are supplemented by 2 Human Rights Treaties –- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights –- both of which are rendered supreme Law by virtue of the Supremacy Clause (just like the Bill of Rights).


20.      The latter Covenant’s Reservations enacted by Congress expressly reserve original jurisdiction to State and local governments, to the end that their competent authorities may take appropriate measures for the fulfillment of the Covenant.