Wednesday, March 14, 2007

High Court to Hear Arguments on RICO Extortion Claim Against Government Officials

This posting was written by Sonali Oberg, editor of CCH RICO Business Disputes Guide.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether government officials acting pursuant to their regulatory capacity can be guilty under RICO of the predicate act of extortion under color of official right for attempting to obtain property for the sole benefit of the government.

At issue is a holding by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver (RICO Business Disputes Guide ¶10,322) that a landowner could proceed with a RICO claim against employees of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) because the employees had engaged in various forms of extortion in an attempt to force the landowner to re-grant an easement the BLM had lost.

The landowner sufficiently pleaded several instances of business and property damages that allegedly resulted from the employees' activities. The employees took actions that adversely affected the landowner's business by interfering with guest ranch operations and causing economic injury and property damages.

Such allegations would be sufficient to show standing because, at the pleading stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the employees' conduct would suffice, according to the appellate court.

The petition is Wilkie v. Robbins, U.S. S.Ct., Dkt. 06-219, cert. granted December 1, 2006. Oral arguments scheduled for Monday, March 19, 2007.

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