Tuesday, July 19, 2005

United States v. Philip Morris, et al.

Today, the United States asked the Supreme Court to overrule the D.C. Circuit's conclusion that the limited equitable relief provisions of the RICO statute (a statute originally enacted to combat organized crime) withholds from district courts the otherwise ordinary equitable remedy of disgorgement. Based on RICO's structure, language, and history, the D.C. Circuit concluded that only RICO's criminal provisions provide for such a remedy. Of course, in the criminal context, such a remedy may be imposed only after the requirements of the criminal law, such as guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, have been satisfied. The government's cert. petition, and a brief discussion can be found here.

As a rule, I generally do not blog cases in which I am or have been involved. Even though I have been in this case on behalf of one of the defendants (but am not currently involved), I will bend that general rule just far enough to say that, in my view, the question presented on this petition is terribly important -- not only for the current defendants, from whom the government seeks to extract $145 billion, but also for other industries who, given the virtually limitless malleability of the RICO statute, may easily find themselves in similar circumstances. I tend to think the Court is somewhat likely to hear this case, and anticipate that, if it does, the decision will prove to be one of the more interesting of the October 2005 Term.