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RICO is nearing its twentieth birthday, but it may not be a happy one. In fact, 'tis the season for critics of RICO to be, if not jolly, at least highly active. A House subcommittee and the Senate Judiciary Committee have held hearings on RICO reform, the popular and business press has published numerous debates and criticisms involving fairly arcane points of civil and criminal law, scholars and lawyers have filled law reviews and legal newspapers with articles often critical of the statute, and the pressure has been building for statutory changes.

As the pressure for change has intensified, and the debate has moved away from judges and law professors into newspaper columns and the political arena, increasingly dubious claims have been heard on both sides of the reform issue. It may be useful to give a kind of consumer's guide to the arguments frequently heard during these debates. In particular, I would like to focus on the RICO reform bill that has progressed the farthest in Congress, with a view to answering two related questions: What are the strengths and weaknesses of that bill, and why has that bill had greater political success than more conceptually sound reforms? Before turning directly to those questions, however, I would like to address some of the mythology that surrounds the debate over RICO because the arguments of both proponents and opponents of RICO reform are either inaccurate or irrelevant or both.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Law


Permission to reprint has been granted by the Vanderbilt Law Review.