In a case that has been widely discussed on this blog, a United States federal district court Judge denied the Philadelphia Carpenters’ Union’s motion to dismiss a federal RICO case filed against it by the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro issued the ruling on the Union’s motion.
Unfortunately, Judge Quinoses Alejandro did not issue an opinion to go along with her order. This is a bit unusual. Federal Judges routinely issue opinions (if only in footnote form) even on motion dealing with procedural issues. like discovery disputes. The lack of an opinion prevents us from knowing the Judge’s rationale for denying the motion. Therefore, the order lack precedental value for subsequent cases. However, I do not believe the order is any less significant. Potential plaintiffs now know that a federal RICO case against a union can survive a motion to dismiss. Moreover, the attorneys for the Convention Center have provided potential plaintiffs a road map for doing so. As I have stated before, the fact pattern in the Convention case is hardly unique and the tactics the Carpenters used in that case are de ri·gueur.
Faced with the threat of trebel (triple damages) and attorneys fees from a successful RICO claim, unions should certainly be on notice following this decision. In particular, the attorney fees provision of the RICO act makes these cases attractive to attorneys that will bring such cases on a contingent or reduced fee. This removes the burden of the high costs that a plaintiff in a RICO case would usually have to bear and the prohibitive effect that high fees would have on an otherwise solid case.