The dust has begun to settle. After dozens of decisions that split the lower courts into insular camps, a sharply divided Supreme Court has decided Sedima, S.P.R.L. v. Imrex Co. Over four dissents, the Court held that in creating the private civil cause of action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Congress did not limit the plaintiff class to persons who allege "racketeering injury." The five Justice majority also held that Congress did not limit the defendant class to persons previously convicted under RICO's criminal provision or the predicate acts that establish the RICO violation. The Court's decision s expected to produce a new tide of "civil RICO" litigation.By breathing new vitality into civil RICO, Sedima may quiet some of the immediate questions that have surrounded this cause of action ever since private plaintiffs began to discover its potential reach in 1981. A more vexing question, however, persists in today's"age of statutes,"' when the judiciary routinely must determine the meaning of imprecise legislation. In the crucible of adversary litigation, federal courts determine legislative meaning by interpreting statutory language and legislative history. How shall a court proceed when it reaches "equipoise" after concluding, as Judge Harry T. Edwards recently defined, that competing arguments drawn from the record and pertinent legal materials are "equally strong"? Because of the sheer volume of legislation that finds its way to the courts, the question of equipoise holds continuing relevance. The "statutorification" of American law has reached the furthest corners of our national life, and today a sizable percentage of litigation concerns dispute about the meaning of statutes. The scope of dispute is as broad as the scope of legislative activity itself.
Douglas E. Abrams,
The Place of Procedural Control in Determining Who May Sue or Be Sued: Lessons in Statutory Interpretation from Civil RICO and Sedima,
38 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol38/iss6/2