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Sunday, October 02, 2011


I'm grateful to Dan Markel for inviting me to be an October guest blogger on PrawsBlawg. I am primarily interested in talking about my new book, BREAKING THE DEVIL'S PACT (NYU Press 2011), but your responses and breaking news may well take me in other directions as well.

Breaking the Devil's Pact is a case study of DOJ's effort, by means of Civil RICO, to purge the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) of organized crime's presence and influence in the union. U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani brought the lawsuit in 1988 against the president (Jackie Presser) and general executive board (GEB) memberts of the IBT and some two dozen Cosa Nostra bosses. The complaint alleged a "devil's pact" between the union and organized crime defendants to exploit the union and its pension and welfare funds and to violate the rights of rank and file members. The massive complaint cited scores of past criminal prosecutions for theft, embezzlement, fraud and violence. None of these allegations came as a shock.
Labor racketeering in the IBT had been notorious for decades. Indeed, in 1957 the AFL-CIO expelled the IBT from the labor federation on account of corruption and racketeering. However, there was no positive change in the next 30 years. In 1986, the President's Commission on Organized Crime (PCOC) called the Teamsters (then the nation's most populous labor union) the most "mobbed-up" union in the country and called for a civil RICO lawsuit to impose court monitorship.

You'll recall that in 1988, Ronald Reagan was president. You may not recall that the IBT was the only major labor union that had endorsed his presidential candidacy (twice). Shortly before the lawsuit was filed, 300 members of Congress delivered a petition to Attorney Gneral Meese, exhorting the DOJ not to file the rumored civil RICO lawsuit because it would be harmful to a "free and independent labor movement." (How's that for cynicism?) All the candidates, Democrats and Republicans, except George H.W. Bush, promised not to file the lawsuit. Nevertheless, the DOJ (via Giuliani) did file it, an impressive statement about DOJ's political independence at that time.

U.S. v. IBT was settled in 1989 on the eve of trial. The consent decree stated that there should be no organized crime presence in the union, that association with organized crime would constitute a disciplinary offense, that for the next 5 IBT elections, the president and GEB members would be selected via one person one vote secret balloting by the rank and file supervised by a court appointed elections officer, and that the IBT disciplinary machinery would be wielded by court appointed investigators and adjudicators. The lawsuit in its remedial phase is now in its 22nd year, with no end in sight. The disciplinary prong of the remediation has expelled 500 IBT officers, including some of the most powerful figures in the union. The election prong has produced the most democratic union elections in American history. I argue that by any standard of assessment, U.S. v. IBT must be regarded as one of, if not, the most important organized crime case in American history. A case could also be made that it is the most important labor litigation of the last 50 years. Nevertheless, it has attracted little if any attention from criminal law or labor law scholars. Students are likely to finish a course in federal criminal law without having heard about the case. Similarly, labor law casebook authors apparently do not see it worthy of much, if any attention. Perhaps you have some thoughts about why this is the case?

James B. Jacobs
NYU School of Law


Posted by Jim Jacobs on October 2, 2011 at 07:03 PM in Books, Criminal Law, Workplace Law | Permalink


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That being said, it's a very interesting subject, and I'll be sure to look at your book!

Posted by: AndyK | Oct 3, 2011 9:54:49 AM

I could only think of three reasons. The first would be the political aspect, keeping the case out of a classroom. The second is that the case is too big to process. The third is that the subject matter isn't good for a crim law course. An intro crim law course lends itself to easy, isolated bits of law--- is this intent? Etc.

So while the case might frame a whole course in crim pro, and might be a GREAT case in fed investigations, it's at best an isolated example in racketeering.

Honestly, if I had to guess, it's probably that the case is so damn big, and crim profs prefer facts and law capable of summary on a page-and-a-half squib.

Posted by: AndyK | Oct 3, 2011 9:53:53 AM

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