Friday, September 14, 2012

H.J. Inc. v. Northwestern Bell Telephone Company case brief

H.J. Inc. v. Northwestern Bell Telephone Company
        1. Facts: Bell was accused of bribing the MN Public Utilities Commission, in order to approve rates in excess of fair and reasonable amount. They are charged with RICO violations.
        2. Issue: What is the test for a “pattern” of activity required for a RICO prosecution.
        3. The statute first imposes the restriction that there must be “at lease two acts”, this serves as a very small restriction, however two acts are not necessarily sufficient. It is not the number of predicates but the relationship that they bear to each other or to some external organizing principle that renders them ‘ordered’ or ‘arranged’. This court has two requirements necessary to constitute a pattern: a showing of a relationship between the predicates, and of the threat of continuing activity. The threat of continuing activity is required, because that is what Congress intended to address. There cannot be a standard test for continuity and relatedness because it is a case-by-case analysis. In terms of continuity, the court defines two kinds: closed-ended (proving a series of related predicates extending over a substantial period of time) and open-ended (past conduct that by its nature projects into the future with a threat of repetition).
        4. Some courts try and establish a test that would narrow the pattern of racketeering activity by requiring the acts to be those traditionally associated with organized crime or of an organized crime type perpetrator. The court rejects this limitation, since the language is clearly very broad in RICO, although it may have been passed with the intention of attacking organized crime, the court says it was written very broadly, and it is not the court’s place to rewrite it… furthermore, it is very hard to define what is an organized crime. The court does find that Bell was guilty of RICO because the bribes were all related to accomplish a common purpose, and they continually occurred over a 6 year period.
        5. CONCUR: Scalia does not seem to add much, he simply says that the majority does not add anything… they merely say that the acts must be related and result in a continuous threat… he says that it is tough to define this for lower courts.

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