Dual Construction of RICO: The Road Not Taken in Reves




Camp, Bryan T.

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Washington and Lee Law Review


In 1993, the Court abruptly departed from its expansionist method to accept a narrow reading of RICO liability in Reves v. Ernst & Young. While the decision itself may be salutary, the grounds upon which it rests are not. Judge Mikva of the D.C. Circuit captured the essence of the problem when, questioning his colleagues' attempt to narrow RICO's scope similarly to the Supreme Court's narrowing in Reves, he asked "Why is one element of the statute properly deemed broad while another read narrowly?" The Supreme Court did not answer this question in Reves.

This Article develops a rationale for the decision reached in Reves that may help resolve other issues that arise because of the interplay between RICO's civil and criminal provisions. The thesis is that RICO should be interpreted narrowly in some cases and broadly in others, depending on the nature of the issue before the court. The suggested method of interpretation does no more than recognize and apply the fact that RICO has both a remedial and punitive purpose to it. These dual purposes support the use of a dual construction doctrine to resolve statutory ambiguity and answer Judge Mikva's question.



RICO liability, Reves v. Ernst & Young, Dual construction, Racketeering, Organized crime, Civil liability, Criminal liability


51 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 61