Scheidler Heads to Supreme Court for the Third Time

Scheidler outside High Court in 2002

Scheidler conducts interviews after the 2002 Oral Arguments in Scheidler II [Photo by Martin Lueders]

On Tuesday, June 28, Joe Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League learned that they would be making their third trip to the Supreme Court in the NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit. As the final act of their 2004 term, the High Court granted Certiorari to the League’s petition of an Appelate Court ruling that would have prolonged the landmark RICOcase, now in it’s nineteenth year.

Scheidler’s first appearance before the Supreme Court in the case was in 1993, arguing that the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) cannot be used against public protest groups. In 1994, the Court ruled unanimously that RICO could be used against such groups. The case then proceeded to trial in 1997.

Scheidler’s second appearance before the Supreme Court was in 2002, in his appeal of the judgement against him in the 1997 trial. The district court had imposed an injunction and financial damages of $257,780. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Scheidler’s favor, overturning the lower court. In his 2003 Majority Opinion, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote:

Because all of the predicate acts supporting the jury’s finding of a RICO violation must be reversed, the judgment that petitioners violated RICO must also be reversed.

Without an underlying RICO violation, the District court’s injunction must necessarily be vacated.

Fay Clayton

NOW attorney Fay Clayton

With such decisive language, it seemed NOW v. Scheidler was finally over. However, NOW attorney Fay Clayton convinced the Appellate Court that there was a possibility the Supreme Court overlooked four “predicate acts” that might allow the injunction to remain in force. What those four acts were, Clayton would not say.

Briefings and oral arguments will be held over until the Fall 2005 Supreme Court term.

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