Venue in RICO Cases

Seemingly unknown to many, RICO cases can be filed in state court as well as federal. This was decided in Tafflin v. Levitt, 493 U.S. 455 (1990)

The Supreme Court said,”To resolve a conflict among the federal appellate courts and state supreme courts,[1] we granted certiorari limited to the question whether state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over civil RICO claims. 490 U. S. 1089 (1989). We hold that they do. and accordingly affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

The Court explained,

“under our federal system, the States possess sovereignty concurrent with that of the Federal Government, subject only to limitations imposed by the Supremacy Clause. Under this system of dual sovereignty, we have consistently held that state courts have inherent authority, and are thus presumptively competent, to adjudicate claims arising under the laws of the United States.”

Some concerns were expressed in a concurring opinion,

“There is also the possibility that the state courts will disrupt the uniform construction of criminal RICO by launching new interpretations of the “pattern” and “enterprise” elements of that offense when hearing civil RICO suits. This possibility, though not insubstantial, cf. H. J. Inc. v. Northwestern 469*469 Bell Telephone Co., 492 U. S. 229 (1989), is not enough to require exclusive federal jurisdiction of civil RICO claims. Even though varying interpretations of the “pattern” and “enterprise” elements of RICO may drastically change the consequences that flow from particular acts, these variations cannot make an act criminal in one court system but blameless in another and therefore do not implicate the core due process concerns identified by the Court, ante, at 464, as underlying the need for uniform construction of criminal statutes. Moreover, we have the authority to reduce the risk of, and to set aside, incorrect interpretations of these elements of RICO liability.”

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