Carpenters v. Building Trades

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 10-28-2014
  • Case #: 12-36049
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O’Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judges Kleinfeld and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

To plausibly allege predicate acts of extortion under the Hobbs Act, a plaintiff must allege the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (“Carpenters”) is a subordinate labor union to the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO (“Building Trades”), “an umbrella labor organization representing unions and individuals in the construction industry.” Carpenters terminated its affiliation with the Building Trades “because it believe[d] that the Building Trades’ services [were] ‘unrequested, unwanted and unnecessary’ and that its rules [were] ‘stale, outdated and anticompetitive.” The Building Trades implemented the “‘Push-Back-Carpenters Campaign’” to force Carpenters into “reaffiliating with the Building Trades and paying dues.” Carpenters alleged that the Building Trades used economic pressure, vandalism, and threats of force within the campaign, which Carpenters allege is extortion. Carpenters therefore sued the Building Trades under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act’s private cause of action (“civil RICO”), along with five other relatable claims. The district court dismissed the Carpenters’ claims for failure “to allege proximate causation or any predicate acts,” and the Carpenters appealed. “‘The elements of a civil RICO claim are as follows: (1) conduct (2) of an enterprise (3) through a pattern (4) of racketeering activity (known as “predicate acts”) (5) causing injury to plaintiff’s business or property.’” Racketeering activity includes any indictable act under the Hobbs Act or state extortion law. The Ninth Circuit reviewed “whether the Carpenters plausibly alleged any predicate acts” under the Hobbs Act. The Hobbs Act defines extortion as “‘the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.’” The panel determined that the Carpenters did not plausibly allege any predicate acts because a Hobbs Act violation does not include “unwanted or subjectively valueless services in the context of an economic campaign.” The panel therefore affirmed the district court’s dismissal. AFFIRMED.

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