Monday, June 8, 2009
In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that yes - RICO association-in-fact enterprises require an "ascertainable structure beyond that inherent in the pattern of racketeering activity in which it engages, but no - "an instruction framed in this precise language is not necessary." (Boyle v. United States). In the first part of the decision, the Court looks are three questions - "First, must an association-in-fact enterprise have a 'structure'? Second, must the structure be 'ascertainable'? Third, must the 'structure' go 'beyond that inherent in the pattern of racketeering activity' in which its members engage?" The decision relies heavily on Turkette.
The Court held that an association-in-fact enterprise needs to have "three structural features: a purpose, relationships among those associated with the enterprise, and longevity sufficient to permit these associates to pursue the enterprise's purpose." But despite the Court stating that these three features are needed, it does not require that the jury be told many specifics. The Court found that the instruction given "properly conveyed the point [ ] made in Turkette, that proof of a pattern of racketeering activity may be sufficient in a particular case to permit a jury to infer the existence of an association-in-fact enterprise.
This decision is very helpful for government prosecutions in that it allows RICO cases to be brought with the jury being told a minimal amount of what is required for a RICO enterprise. The Court states:
Such a group need not have a hierarchical structure or a "chain of command"; decisions may be made on an ad hoc basis and by any number of methods—by majority vote, consensus, a show of strength, etc. Members of the group need not have fixed roles; different members may perform different roles at different times. The group need not have a name, regular meetings, dues, established rules and regulations, disciplinary procedures, or induction or initiation ceremonies. While the group must function as a continuing unit and remain in existence long enough to pursue a course of conduct, nothing in RICO exempts an enterprise whose associates engage in spurts of activity punctuated by periods of quiescence.
The question likely to be asked now is - what is not an association in fact enterprise for RICO. In this regard, the Court gives an example in footnote 4 (why are the best footnotes always numbered 4), where the Court states:
It is easy to envision situations in which proof that individuals engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity would not establish the existence of an enterprise. For example, suppose that several individuals, independently and without coordination, engaged in a pattern of crimes listed as RICO predicates—for example, bribery or extortion.Proof of these patterns would not be enough to show that the individuals were members of an enterprise.
A two-person dissent (Stevens and Breyer) offers a more limited and structured view of what should be included within the word "enterprise." They state that "Congress intended the term 'enterprise' as it is used in [RICO] to refer only to business-like entities that have an existence apart from the predicate acts committed by their employees or associates."
See also Scotus Blog here