Fundies + Abortion + RICO Government Seeks RICO-Abortion Rule The Clinton administration i

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Fundies & Abortion & RICO ------------------------- Government Seeks RICO-Abortion Rule The Clinton administration is siding with "abortion rights" supporters who want the Supreme Court to let them use a federal anti-racketeering law to sue groups that block access to abortion clinics. Justice Dept lawyers told the high court Thursday that a lower court erred when it barred a lawsuit against Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion groups. The government lawyers urged the justices to hear an appeal filed last fall by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and abortion clinic owners. The appeal said the anti-abortion groups comprise "a nationwide criminal conspiracy of extremists" bent on "unlawful and violent methods" to drive abortion clinics out of business. The alleged conspiracy violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the appeal said. The court asked the Clinton administration for its views in January, sparking the brief submitted Thursday. An Operation Rescue cult spokesman the Rev Patrick Mahoney said the filing was "a 180- degree turnabout" from the Bush administration's position on lawsuits over access to abortion clinics. "The Clinton administration is singling us out for attack," Mahoney said. But NOW President Patricia Ireland said: "It's certainly a refreshing change to have the court receive a brief from the Justice Dept that's consistent with the law rather than the prior administration's politics." In the brief, government lawyers said the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals wrongly concluded that RICO requires proof that alleged racketeering acts were motivated by an economic purpose. Courts might have trouble determining whether someone had such an economic motive, the government lawyers said. "A political organization engaging in a pattern of unlawful acts may do so principally for political reasons, but the acts may have some incidental economic benefits for the organization--such as increasing contributions from members and supporters," they said. Noting that federal appeals courts have split on the issue, the administration said the Supreme Court should resolve it. The RICO law, enacted in 1970, originally was aimed at organized crime but increasingly is used in lawsuits involving just about any business dispute. The law bans "any person employed or associated with any enterprise in...interstate or foreign commerce...to participate in a pattern of racketeering activity." Under RICO, a pattern of racketeering amounts to 2 or more acts from a long list of underlying crimes, including extortion. Numerous lawsuits accused Operation Rescue and the other anti-abortion groups of extortion by use of arson, bombings, destruction of property, assault and battery, trespass and harassment. Federal courts in New York and Philadelphia have hit Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion groups with huge fines for RICO violations. But in the case before the Supreme Court, the Chicago-based 7th Circuit court threw out all RICO claims. The Supreme Court ruled in January that federal judges may not stop abortion clinic blockades by invoking an 1871 civil rights law, popularly called the Ku Klux Klan Act. It bans conspiracies aimed at violating constitutional rights.

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