Idaho County's RICO Charges against Employers Dismissed

March 25, 2008 ( - A federal appellate court has ruled that government entities cannot file racketeering lawsuits to recoup money spent to further a public policy objective.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued that decision in a suit brought by an Idaho county government against four companies claiming the employers hired illegal immigrants and caused local public officials to have to pay more for government services.The case was brought by Canyon County, Idaho – located near Boise – against Syngenta Seeds, Sorrento Lactalis, Swift Beef Company and Harris Moran SeedCo.

Writing for the 9th Circuit panel, Senior Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled that U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho was correct when he ruled county officials had not proven the government agency was harmed in its business or property for the purposes of the racketeering charges.

“When a governmental body acts in its sovereign or quasi-sovereign capacity, seeking to enforce the laws or promote the public well-being, it cannot claim to have been ‘injured in [its] . . . property’ for RICO purposes based solely on the fact that it has spent money in order to act governmentally,” Tashima wrote. “All government actions require the expenditure of money in this sense, insofar as the government acts through public servants who are paid for their services. If government expenditures alone sufficed as injury to property, any RICO predicate act that provoked any sort of governmental response would provide the government entity with standing to sue – an interpretation of the statute that we think highly improbable. We find it particularly inappropriate to label a governmental entity ‘injured in its property’ when it spends money on the provision of additional public services, given that those services are based on legislative mandates”

The 9th Circuit ruling is  here .