CURRENT MONTH (January 2019)

Professional Responsibility

RICO Suit Against Southern Poverty Law Center

By Keith R. Fisher

The Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) is a law firm and advocacy group that, according to its website, “monitor[s] hate groups and other extremists . . ..”  SPLC defines a “hate group” as “an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

The Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”), according to its website, is a “non-partisan non-profit organization . . . devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration . . ..”    SPLC designated CIS as a “hate group” in 2016.   Claiming that this designation is false, is incompatible with SPLC’s own definition of “hate group,” and is causing significant damage to CIS’s reputation and its ability to raise funds, CIS has filed a complaint charging SPLC with wire fraud as a predicate to a civil RICO claim. 

The complaint also alleges SPLC knows that the designation of CIS as a hate group is false, which could qualify as conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, fraud or misrepresentation or other misconduct under Model Rule 8.4.

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