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H. J. Inc. v. Northwestern Bell Tel. Co.

Supreme Court of the United States

November 8, 1988, Argued ; June 26, 1989, Decided

No. 87-1252

Opinion

 [*232]   [***203]   [**2897]  JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO or Act), Pub. L. 91-452, Title IX, 84 Stat. 941, as amended, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968 (1982 ed. and Supp. V), ] imposes criminal and civil liability upon those who engage in certain "prohibited activities." Each prohibited activity is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1962 to include, as one necessary element, proof either of "a pattern of racketeering activity" or of "collection of an [****8]  unlawful debt." "Racketeering activity" is defined in RICO to mean "any act or threat involving" specified state-law crimes, any "act" indictable under various specified federal statutes, and certain federal "offenses," 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1) (1982 ed., Supp. V); but of ] the term "pattern" the statute says only that it "requires at least two acts of racketeering activity" within a 10-year period, 18 U.S.C. § 1961(5). We are called upon in this civil case to consider what conduct meets RICO's pattern requirement.

RICO ] renders criminally and civilly liable "any person" who uses or invests income derived "from a pattern of racketeering activity" to acquire an interest in or to operate an enterprise engaged in interstate commerce, § 1962(a); who acquires or maintains an interest in or control of such an enterprise "through a pattern of racketeering activity," § 1962(b); who, being employed by or associated with such an enterprise, conducts or participates [****9]  in the conduct of its affairs  [*233]  "through a pattern of racketeering activity," § 1962(c); or, finally, who conspires to violate  [***204]  the first three subsections of § 1962, § 1962(d). RICO ] provides for drastic remedies: conviction for a violation of RICO carries severe criminal penalties and forfeiture of illegal proceeds, 18 U.S.C. § 1963 (1982 ed., Supp. V); and a person found in a private civil action to have violated RICO is liable for treble damages, costs, and attorney's fees, 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c).

Petitioners, customers of respondent Northwestern Bell Telephone Co., filed this putative class action in 1986 in the District Court for the District of Minnesota. Petitioners alleged violations of §§ 1962(a), (b), (c), and (d) by Northwestern Bell and the other respondents -- some of the telephone company's officers and employees, various members of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), and other unnamed individuals and corporations -- and sought an injunction and treble damages under RICO's civil liability provisions,  [****10]  §§ 1964(a) and (c).

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492 U.S. 229 *; 109 S. Ct. 2893 **; 106 L. Ed. 2d 195 ***; 1989 U.S. LEXIS 3239 ****; 57 U.S.L.W. 4951

H. J. INC. ET AL. v. NORTHWESTERN BELL TELEPHONE CO. ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  829 F. 2d 648, reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

organized crime, predicates, continuity, racketeering activity, racketeering, pattern of racketeering activity, criminal activity, legislative history, predicate act, enterprise, criminal conduct, schemes, cases, single scheme, offenses, repeated, purposes, rates, terms, lower court, participated, petitioners', allegations, conducting, long-term, concepts, ongoing, isolated event, criminal act, regular way

Antitrust & Trade Law, Private Actions, Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations, Scope, Criminal Law & Procedure, Racketeering, Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act, General Overview, Regulated Practices, Civil Procedure, Class Actions, Class Attorneys, Fees, Sentencing, Forfeitures, Proceedings, Remedies, Penalties, Elements, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Crimes Against Persons, Coercion & Harassment, Dismissal, Involuntary Dismissals, Bribery, Public Officials