Racketeering-Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO): Legal Sledgehammer

Author: A.L.L.


American Life League

Scare them to death. Use up their resources. Try to bankrupt them.

Abortion lawyer Margi Haimes, at the National Abortion Federation convention, Los Angeles, May 14-16, 1984.

Anti-Life Philosophy.

Reproductive rights are the paramount right in this country for women, and, as such, they take precedence over all other rights.

Pro-choice activists must use whatever legal tools they can get their hands on against the anti-choice minority who want to strip women of this most fundamental right.

These tools include the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Ku Klux Klan Act, and most effective of all the Racketeering-Influenced, Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.


Despite the fact that virtually all of the media, the medical profession, the legal profession, and all of the other elite groups in this country are pro-abortion, the pro-life movement continues to gain ground with the public.

Why is this?

Simply because the average member of the public knows what is killing and what is not in spite of the cascade of Newspeak and propaganda dished out by pro-abortion organizations. The pro-life message, despite vigorous censorship by the press, is leaking through and it is having a profound impact on public consciousness.

The courts of this country have always been friendly to the abortionists. Even when abortion was illegal, judges generally did not prosecute illegal abortionists, and in many cases even looked the other way. However, even though the pro-aborts had little support from the people or from state legislators, they made an unexpected and spectacular end-run around the entire normal judicial and legislative process and obtained abortion on demand on January 22, 1973.

Despite all of the efforts of the Clinton regime, the pro-life movement is gaining ground in the grassroots arena, and the pro-aborts know that their only chance to defeat or stall its progress is in the courts, in particular by filing racketeering (RICO) suits against pro-lifers in an attempt to drive them out of activities that save babies.

This phase of the pro/anti-life struggle started in 1985 and will inevitably continue until Congress redresses these abuses of the racketeering statutes and the civil justice system.

RICO: Legal Sledgehammer.

What is RICO?

In 1970, Congress passed a little-known law entitled the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was designed to allow prosecutors more latitude in attacking organized crime at its source illegal activities. This Act was intended to attack "patterns of racketeering activity," including but not limited to murder, extortion, kidnapping, burglary, drug transport and sale, pornography, and gambling.

While a RICO charge is being investigated, the State has the power to freeze the target organization's assets, and, if a conviction is obtained, it may confiscate property used in the crimes as well as levy fines that may amount to as much as three times the money made in the illegal enterprises.

At the last minute, Congress also decided that RICO may be used in civil court in addition to criminal court. As G.K. Chesterson said, "A law is like a dog; once you set it loose, it follows its own nature," and this is certainly the case with RICO. The civil modification by Congress has led to a proliferation of uses never intended by the lawmakers. For example, RICO has been used against finance companies, chocolate companies, and small pornographic bookstores that have no connection whatever with organized crime.

Typical Misuses of RICO. Some of the cases where RICO has been misapplied border on the ludicrous, and include the following;

• The National Organization for Women (NOW) and other pro-abortion groups claimed that Illinois pro-life activist Conrad Wojnar and Des Plaines Pro-Life, a group of crisis pregnancy centers, engaged in "racketeering" by burying 5,000 aborted babies!

• The wife of comedian Pat Paulsen sued him for divorce under RICO.

• During the Imelda Marcos RICO trial addressing the embezzlement of money from the Philippines, the presiding judge threw up his hands and plaintively asked "What am I doing here?"[1]

• When pilot's and machinist's unions publicly charged Texas Air with violating airline safety rules, management retaliated by filing a RICO suit against the unions, alleging a "pattern of racketeering activity."

• When rescuers blocked doors at a West Hartford, Connecticut abortuary in 1989, police savagely beat and molested them, causing scores of injuries. The town subsequently filed a racketeering suit against the publisher of the Orange County Post for the heinous offense of publishing an opinion column entitled "Redneck Justice," which highlighted this police brutality.

An angry judge threw the suit out.

Anti-Life Weapon.

Certainly the most common intentional misuse of RICO has been against pro-life groups. Since 1986, more than 50 RICO suits have been filed against pro-life individuals and groups. Under the definition of 'extortion,' pro-abortion groups may allege that pro-lifers have engaged in a pattern or "campaign of fear, harassment, and intimidation." "Extortion" has even been defined by some plaintiffs as "gaining satisfaction from "saving alleged fetal lives!""

A RICO lawsuit does not even have to specify individual illegal acts. For example, the Portland Feminist Women's Health Center brought a Federal RICO suit against 14 local pro-life activists, in spite of the fact that no illegal act, including trespassing, had ever been committed by any of them.

The plaintiffs merely alleged that 100 unnamed "John Does" had vandalized the clinic on several occasions, and further alleged that these "John Does" were "acting in concert" with the named defendants.

A preliminary injunction was entered by the District Court and upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This critical case set a precedent that allowed any pro-abortion group to file a multi-million dollar civil racketeering suit against any pro-life individual or group even if they had engaged in purely protected speech!

SLAPP 'Em Down.

A lawsuit filed by a corporation or public entity against a special-interest group for the purpose of chilling freedom of expression is generally referred to as a "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation," or SLAPP.

Such lawsuits have been filed against environmental groups that have been engaged in purely Constitutional speech, and against individuals for acts as trivial as authoring a letter to a local newspaper that opposed a specific land development.

The major networks devoted at least three half-hour television news programs to SLAPPs in 1990. The commentators strenuously denounced the use of litigation against protected speech. Although the shows dealt with a variety of examples, not a single word was mentioned about the heavy use of the RICO statutes against pro-lifers, a classic series of SLAPPs if there ever was one.

This is not surprising in light of the fact that the press admits that it is heavily pro-abortion. In other words, the networks oppose lawsuits brought for the purpose of suppressing free speech but only if it is free speech that they agree with.

The Inappropriateness of Civil RICO.

It is generally acknowledged by neutral legal scholars and even the American Civil Liberties Union that RICO statutes must only be used when other remedies have proven inadequate. As Antonio Califa of the ACLU asserts; "The ACLU believes that civil RICO's potential for chilling First Amendment rights of expression is enormous ... Congress should amend RICO, now ... Abortion clinic protestors are not racketeers, and should not be treated as if they are."[2]

Curiously, the most extreme left-wing elements in this country (i.e., socialists and communists) recognize the very real dangers that RICO poses to themselves as well as to pro-lifers.

Socialist writer Marlene Fried sees the use of RICO as "complicity" with an "oppressive system;"

We want to stop the anti-abortion movement, but using the very tactics that are so often used against progressive movements makes us uneasy about the way the battle has been shaped. Counting on the police to keep the clinics open, counting on the courts to preserve abortion rights, counting on the medical establishment to provide abortion services are all seen as complicity with an oppressive system a system that should be challenged, not relied upon.[3]

This theme is reflected in even clearer terms by a writer for the Communist magazine Proletarian Revolution; "RICO is supposedly an anti-racketeering law, but its real aim is to bypass constitutional rights to privacy and other civil liberties ... Endorsing it as a weapon for fighting the anti-abortionists sets a dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly backfire and be used against the women's movement as well."[4]

Trespassing and picketing are obviously not racketeering or extortion. There are adequate remedies at law for illegal acts, such as local prosecution that results in civil penalties including jail sentences. Why, then, are the pro-aborts using RICO?

The answer is simple: Because they can get away with it!

Anti-Life Objectives.

The objectives of the wave of pro-abortion RICO suits are twofold;

(1) To intimidate pro-life street activists. This objective has not been fulfilled, because Operation Rescue and sidewalk counselors will not be deterred from their ultimate mission of saving human lives. Nothing that the courts do or say can possibly stop Operation Rescue, which has ignored injunctions in Atlanta, Southern California, Washington State, and many other locations.

(2) To intimidate organized religion. This objective has definitely been achieved for now. Many churches have backed off from their public support of Operation Rescue, and even from their support of legal pro-life activities such as sidewalk counseling, for fear of lawsuits. However, since street pro-lifer activists have never really enjoyed the support of organized religion, this pro-abortion success is not a major setback for pro-lifers, but merely a temporary delay of final victory. Conditions remain the same as they were before.

The first successful use of the RICO statute against pro-life activists at the appeals level culminated on March 2, 1989, when a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of a district court that 26 Philadelphia pro-lifers were guilty of extortion under RICO and liable for $43,000 in damages and $65,000 in pro-abortion attorney's fees.

The lower Court had found that these activists had trespassed and engaged in assault and outright destruction of clinic property. In October of 1989, the United States Supreme Court, ruling on an appeal in this case, held that the Federal RICO statute could indeed be used against protestors who engage in 'violent' activities.

Of course, to pro-abortionists, any kind of pro-life activity at all is 'violent' especially if it cuts into their killing business. The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and the National Abortion Federation (NAF) have defined picketing and even undesirable mail as "violent activities," and several pro-aborts have testified during RICO trials that even silent prayer away from the clinic door is "violence against women!"

For more information on these absurd allegations, see Chapter 19 of Volume I, "Pro-Abortion Violence."

Bluster's Last Stand.

The pro-aborts quite obviously are incensed at their inability to lay the abortion issue to rest once and for all, and have found a superb weapon for use against pesky pro-lifers: RICO suits are easy to file and very difficult to defend.

As Socrates said, "The charge of conspiracy is a tool used by tyrants to silence free thought." Pro-abortion forces waited for a dozen years without resorting to this judicial terrorism because they did not feel the type of pressure that they are now facing. Now, of course, with Operation Rescue and other militant groups in action, anything goes: Federal and state RICO, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and the Civil Rights Conspiracy Act. Anything that works will be used, no matter how far the law must be stretched.

However Draconian such laws usually are, they are completely useless against people who are committed enough to rescue babies despite possible loss of everything they own including their freedom. It is axiomatic that the commitment of Christians is directly proportional to the amount of persecution they are forced to endure for the Lord.

This has been the case for 2,000 years. When comfortable, fence-sitting Christians finally perceive that they may one day be threatened, they will finally abandon their static positions and take direct, concrete, and effective action.

How to Prepare.


It is obvious that RICO will be a feature of the pro/anti-life legal landscape for at least several more years. It is equally obvious that ALL pro-life groups even those acting entirely within the law are vulnerable to this type of legal terrorism, especially if they are being effective at stopping abortion through persistent sidewalk counseling, picketing, or similar tactics.

The time to prepare is NOW, before a lawsuit is filed! Each group, if it feels vulnerable, should prepare by taking the steps outlined in the following paragraphs.

Preparation and Groundwork.

Each group must find attorneys that are willing to defend it. Many large law firms allocate a fixed quota of labor for pro bono (donated) legal work. Contact these firms and individual lawyers. Pro-lifers should not feel restricted to checking just their own towns; they should also contact the pro-life groups listed in this chapter for advice.

Locating attorneys right now is absolutely essential!! When the lawsuit is filed, it will be too late!! Pro-lifers will typically have only one to two weeks to prepare for a 'show cause' hearing after the lawsuit is filed (in a 'show cause' hearing, the usual procedures of law are reversed; defendants essentially have to prove their innocence).

Each pro-lifer should check his homeowner's policy: Many pro-life RICO defendants have found that their homeowner's insurance will provide an attorney to defend such actions, since it is usually in the insurance company's best interests to do so. However, this tactic may backfire; insurance companies may want to settle out of court with the abortionists, thereby allowing the baby-killers to gain a lot of money for little effort, and encouraging other pro-abortionists to file lawsuits in anticipation of a perceived 'deep pocket.'

Each group must also find expert witnesses to testify in their behalf, such as pro-life medical doctors (OB-GYNs) who can state that picketing does not endanger women's lives, and economics experts who can analyze clinic business practices and the actual impact of pro-life activities on clinic business.

It will also be useful to find several women saved from abortion and who will testify regarding the help the groups have given them.


It is absolutely essential to document everything that happens outside the clinics of interest. Groups may borrow, buy, or rent a camcorder and record all large events outside the abortuary. These tapes are invaluable for demonstrating in court the peaceful nature of pro-life activities and the violent and aggressive nature of the clinic employees, escorts, and clients.

It is also vital to take the following steps;

• Dig up dirt on the clinics and abortionists. This type of information can be extremely useful in trial defense, and can also deter lawsuits (if the pro-aborts know that pro-lifers have lots of muck about them, they will be considerably more circumspect in their actions and allegations). Look for building and safety code violations, personal information on clinic abortionists, escorts, and administrators, and lawsuits against all of the above for assault, botched abortions, and so on. Much of this information is also very useful for sidewalk counselors. For hundreds of sources of information on all aspects of the abortion debate and for information on a number of references that show how to "dig up dirt" on abortionists and their minions see Appendix A of Volume III, "Tips for Further Research."

• Learn from other RICO suits. Documentation on typical cases is available from Free Speech Advocate's brief bank. Write to:

Free Speech Advocates
New Hope, Kentucky 40052
Telephone: (502) 549-5252.

What's Sauce for the Goose ...


Surviving a RICO trial can be a terrifying experience, but, in the long run, it can strengthen true pro-life activists.

One feature of almost all of the pro-abortion RICO suits against pro-lifers is the indiscriminate naming of defendants. In one such case, the plaintiffs admitted that they had not even read the complaint. In another case, a pro-abortion group was inadvertently named as a defendant!

In almost all cases, such carelessness will lead to a number of defendants being dismissed from the case before it comes to trial.

It is mandatory that these defendants immediately locate a good pro-life attorney and file a countersuit under as many documented counts as possible, including, but not limited to, harassment, malicious abuse of process, and perjury.

This immediate counterattack serves two vital purposes;

(1) If the countersuit is filed before the original pro-abortion RICO suit comes to trial, it can place the plaintiffs and their attorneys under real pressure, and can distract them from doing their job properly. If the pro-life case is strong enough, it may even be possible to get the plaintiffs to drop their case.

(2) Even more importantly, timely and vigorous pro-life counterattacks will serve notice that any pro-abort who files a RICO suit without good cause is going to get nailed and hard! The only way to stop the wave of pro-abort RICO suits, short of Congressional action, is by making the pro-aborts learn that the law is a two-edged sword.

After Roe.

A large number of pro-abortion individuals and groups have vowed to set up illegal abortion networks if abortion is once more criminalized, either in the country as a whole or in individual states, as described in Chapter 18 of Volume I, "Pro-Abortion Illegal Activities."

These take the form of "aboveground railroads" to areas where abortion is accessible, or a resurrection of the "Jane" networks where women gather in groups to abort themselves.

Pro-lifers should be looking ahead to the time when abortion is illegal again, and should be considering ways in which Federal and state RICO statutes may be used against the pro-abortionists.

Legal Aid and Advice.

The following pro-life organizations have competent legal staffs that have represented pro-life activists in the past at many levels of involvement, from writing amicus briefs and giving free advice to arguing cases in various courts.

If a pro-life individual or organization is faced with the threat of a lawsuit (actual or impending), these groups can give valuable advice and the names and addresses of local pro-life attorneys.

It is a mistake to rule out the local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter. Although it has done incalculable damage in other areas, the ACLU still may help pro-lifers defend the aspects of their case that are strictly related to free speech (they defend Nazis, don't they? And pro-lifers are even more unpopular than Nazis in many places, because they pose a real 'threat' to the Neoliberal agenda).

Americans United for Life (AUL)
343 South Dearborn Street, Suite 1804
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Telephone: (312) 786-9494
FAX: (312) 342-2656
(A public interest law firm which protects anti-abortion, anti-infanticide, and anti-euthanasia activists)

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
1100 West Wells Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233
Telephone: (414) 289-0170
(A Catholic anti-defamation and civil rights organization defending religious freedom and free speech rights of Catholics and others)

Christian Attorneys Supporting Evangelism (CASE)
Post Office Box 450349
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
A group of Christian attorneys working on pro-life cases, including the recent Bray decision, headed by Jay Sekulow.

Christian Legal Defense and Education Foundation
Post Office Box 1088
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Telephone: (703) 818-7150

Christian Legal Society (CLS)
Center for Law and Religious Freedom
Post Office Box 1492
Merrifield, Virginia 22116
Telephone: (703) 560-7314
(Founded in 1961, the CLS is an association of 4,000 judges, attorneys, law professors, and law students that defends the freedoms of speech and association)

Concerned Women for America (CWA)
122 C Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20001
Telephone: (202) 628-3014
(Among other activities, CWA defends religious freedom and the right to free speech)

Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund
Post Office Box 618
Alton, Illinois 62002
Telephone: (618) 462-5415

Free Speech Advocates (FSA)
Post Office Box 815
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556

Life Civil Liberties Union Defense Fund
Post Office Box 1423
Novato, California 94948
Telephone: (415) 898-1051
A legal fund for pro-lifers jailed or fined for rescues.

National Right to Life Committee (NRLC)

Contact your local Right to Life chapter addresses and phone numbers are listed in Chapter 20 of Volume I, "Pro-Life Organizations." (Sponsors community, legislative, and political action to change liberal abortion, infanticide and euthanasia laws).

Pro Bono Legal Work.


Virtually all large law firms donate a certain percentage of their labor to social causes. This is known as pro bono work.

Some pro-life activists may be tempted to approach large local law firms for help if they are the victims of pro-abortion harassment lawsuits, but be warned: Most (but not all) of the large law firms are very elitist, and almost all elitist organizations are rotten and pro-abortion to their very core. Their hypocrisy and inconsistency is astounding, and not at all what one would expect from a 'professional' organization.

An Example RICO Case.

Daniel Grimm is an attorney who represented several members of the Northern California chapter of Operation Rescue who were charged with criminal trespass for a 1988 rescue. He approached Patrick Finley at Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro and Stephen Snyder at Brobeck, Phleger, and Harrison (these two law firms have a total of 850 lawyers working full-time). Finley and Snyder agreed to aid in the representation of the rescuers.

After intense debate on the pro bono boards of both firms, the free representation was approved. Immediately, more than 50 Brobeck members signed a protest petition saying that "due to the highly emotional nature of the debate over reproductive rights, it would be inappropriate" to represent either side in the abortion 'struggle.'

When someone pointed out that Brobeck had already done plenty of pro bono work for Planned Parenthood, owner of the nation's largest chain of abortion mills, the protest petitioners backpedalled and squawked that the rescuers were "trying to clog the court system."

It was strange that the petitioners didn't mind at all the tens of thousands of hours donated to Ted Bundy as he clogged up the court system for a decade. The two law firms mentioned above also represented Black Panthers and violent groups that opposed United States actions in Nicaragua. There was not a whisper of complaint from members of the firms for these actions.[5]

Significantly, Ed Kallgren, one of Brobeck's partners, had sat on the board of Planned Parenthood's East Bay chapter.


This case is not at all unusual. A crescendo of complaints from its lawyers forced the Washington firm of Williams & Connolly to withdraw its name on February 24, 1989 from an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

So don't be fooled into thinking that pro bono work is done for worthy social causes. The truth is, of course, that it is done only for acceptable (that is, Neoliberal) social causes.

Most if not all of the larger law firms are deeply committed to abortion, and contribute millions of dollars worth of free legal work to the abortionists annually. Most of the RICO suits brought around the country against pro-life activists won't cost the clinics a penny, because all services are being donated.

But let a pro-lifer even try to get donated legal services from a large firm, and he or she may very well be laughed back out onto the street.

Still, pro bono work contributed by large law firms is an option that pro-lifers simply cannot afford to ignore.

References: RICO.

[1] National Review, October 15, 1990, page 12.

[2] Quote by Antonio Califa of the American Civil Liberties Union at the October 18, 1989 Conference on RICO at the Cato Institute. Also quoted by William Marshner. "Is RICO a Racket?" Family, Law & Democracy Report, November 1989, page 10.

[3] Marlene Fried. "Pro-Choice Agendas After Webster." Against the Current, November/December 1989, page 19.

[4] "Protect Abortion Rights!" Proletarian Revolution, Fall 1989, pages 26 to 28 and 32.

[5] Charlotte Low Allen. "Pro-Bono Work for Abortion Foes Divides Firms." The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 1989.

Further Reading: RICO.

Peter Megargee Brown. The Art of Questioning: Thirty Maxims of Cross-Examination
MacMill Publishing Company, 866 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10022. 121 pages.

Civil RICO Report. 
Weekly update on the changing status and various uses of the Federal and state RICO statutes. Order from Buraff Publications, 2445 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20037. Telephone: (202) 452-7889.

Legal Briefs Bulletin. 
Excellent periodical report on radical leftist groups and how they take advantage of the court system to enact their agenda. Write to Legal Affairs Council, Freedom Plaza, 14018-A Sunnyfield Circle, Chantilly, Virginia 22021.

© American Life League BBS — 1-703-659-7111

This is a chapter of the Pro-Life Activist’s Encyclopedia published by American Life League.