Tuesday, February 28, 2006

 

Supreme Court Rules RICO Can't Be Used to Stop Protesters

The Supreme Court ruled that "federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used to ban demonstrations." This more than just good legal reasoning. The origin of this suit began with The National Organization of Women filing a suit to ban protests outside abortion clinics.
The legal battle began in 1986, when the National Organization for Women filed a class-action suit challenging tactics used by the Pro-Life Action Network to block women from entering abortion clinics.

NOW's legal strategy was novel at the time, relying on civil provisions of the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was used predominantly in criminal cases against organized crime. The lawsuit also relied on the Hobbs Act, a 55-year-old law banning extortion.
Thus, most of the headlines regarding this story were along the lines of the story linked to above, "Supreme Court Backs Abortion Protesters."

It's unfortunate that the press barely seems to recognize the importance of this ruling. The Supreme Court limited the law to its actual intent. NOW and its supporters wanted to expand the law beyond its intentions to serve its own purposes. This action by NOW was dangerous in that, if NOW's position was supported, our rights would be further eroded and infringed upon.

RICO was poor legislation to begin with and allows seizure of property which one can only get back by proving it was not used for or meant to be used for criminal activity, a sort of guilty before innocent scenario, as I understand it.

Labor unions and social activists understood the importance of this ruling.
Social activists and the AFL-CIO had sided with abortion demonstrators in arguing that lawsuits and injunctions based on the federal extortion law could be used to thwart their efforts to change public policy or agitate for better wages and working conditions.
It's a dangerous thing when you're willing to destroy freedom in order to serve your own selfish purposes. What would have happened if NOW had wanted to stage protests outside a company that it viewed as sexist? NOW's own actions could have been very self defeating.

Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe thyself.
-William Shakespeare.

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