Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Big Advance for Smithfield in UFCW RICO Case

Smithfield They haven't won the case yet, but if the recently ruling by Judge Payne (E.D. Va.) in Smithfield's RICO suit against the UFCW and its corporate campaign is any indication, the union is in big trouble (see here for some background of the case).  I'm having trouble getting a link to the decision, but some key holdings include:


  • denial of UFCW's motion for summary judgment
  • granted summary judgment to Smithfield on four of UFCW's defenses (including First Amendment claims)
  • excluded evidence from New York Times about working conditions at plant
  • refused to exclude evidence about past UFCW corporate campaigns

The amount of money involved could cripple the union (think treble damages).  That makes this decision even tougher to accept.  This opinion reads like it was copied from Smithfield's brief and, if applied elsewhere, threatens to chill any future corporate campaigns.  Possibly the scariest part is the judge's holding that the truthfulness of the union's claims was not a defense to the state tortious interference issues involved.  The idea that a public campaign that is truthful could result in a RICO violation is hard to swallow.  Other problems include excluding evidence on safety given that part of the RICO action alleged that the union's claims about safety problems were false.  Also, the judge's suggestion that petitions to the government that were intended to harass enjoy no First Amendment protection seems in conflict with the Supreme Court's recent BE&K decision.

Hat Tip:  Dennis Nolan Walsh

-JH

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Comments

Wow. Going back to the days when the Anti-federalists and Federalists were jailing each other (depending on where you lived) for defamation despite the truthfulness or sincere beliefs.

Posted by: Per Son | Oct 23, 2008 7:56:49 AM

I don't believe that the crippling amount of money should have anything to do with whether the decision is acceptable. Either it has legal merit or it does not. If the union illegally undertook to cripple this business, the damages for such actions ought not be used as a justification to "forgive and forget."

Posted by: Bret Jacobson | Oct 24, 2008 6:16:52 AM

In re crippling damages - there is the small matter of Congressional intent, unless one thinks it is clear RICO mandated such a result. More work for the next legislative term - I'd place it high on the agenda.

Posted by: Michael Duff | Oct 26, 2008 8:23:45 AM

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