United States District Court, District of Columbia
BERMAN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”),
brought this civil suit against defendants, Richard Cohen and
Heidi Beirich, two individuals who operate the Southern
Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”), alleging a violation
of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
(“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq.
Compl. [Dkt. # 1]. Plaintiff alleges that defendants
conspired to violate RICO when SPLC designated CIS a
“hate group” in 2016. Id. ¶¶
moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defs.'
Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 11] (“Defs.' Mot.”),
and plaintiff opposed the motion. Pl.'s Opp. to
Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 13] (“Pl.'s Opp.”).
Because plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a predicate
offense or a pattern of racketeering, the Court will grant
defendants' motion to dismiss.
Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”) is a
non-profit organization incorporated in Washington, D.C.
Compl. ¶ 3. CIS's mission is “providing
immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media,
and concerned citizens with reliable information about the
social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal
consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United
States. Id. ¶ 16.
Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) is a
non-profit organization with its headquarters in Montgomery,
Alabama. Compl. ¶ 7. The organization monitors and
publishes investigative reports and expert analyses on groups
that it identifies as extremist “hate groups.”
Id. ¶ 11. Defendant Heidi Beirich leads
SPLC's Intelligence Project, which publishes a blog
called “Hatewatch.” Id. ¶ 8.
Richard Cohen is the President of SPLC, and as plaintiff puts
it, “collaborates with Beirich in designating hate
groups.” Id. ¶ 9.
alleges that Cohen and Beirich designated CIS to be a hate
group in 2016, although they knew that CIS did not meet
SPLC's definition for a hate group. Compl. ¶¶
13, 18. SPLC's definition is “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.”
Id. ¶ 14. SPLC went on to publish thirteen blog
posts on Hatewatch in which SPLC “reiterat[ed] that CIS
was a hate group.” Id. ¶ 19.
to plaintiff, because being an immigrant is not an immutable
characteristic, Compl. ¶ 15, and because the
principles of CIS do not attack or malign an entire class of
people, defendants' hate group designation constitutes
the crime of wire fraud within the meaning of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1343 because the blog posts were transmitted on the
internet. Id. ¶¶ 20, 28. Plaintiff asserts
that defendants' goal was to “wreck” and
“destroy” CIS financially. Id. ¶
asserts that it has suffered damages in the form of lost
donations. In 2018, the AmazonSmile Program removed CIS from
its list of non-profit organizations eligible for donations.
Compl. ¶ 23. This has resulted in a loss of “at
least $10, 000 in donations to date and damages are
ongoing.” Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff also
asserts that Guidestar USA, Inc., a non-profit watchdog,
published SPLC's designation of CIS as a hate group on
its website. Id. ¶ 25. CIS undertook an effort
to remove the designation, and while GuideStar ultimately
removed it, plaintiff maintains that this caused a
“diversion of resources from CIS' mission and
likely deterred contributions.” Id.
January 16, 2019, plaintiff filed a complaint in this court
alleging defendants conspired to violate RICO when they
falsely designated plaintiff as a hate group in furtherance
of a scheme to destroy plaintiff. Compl. ¶¶ 28-31.
Plaintiff seeks judgment against defendants for treble
damages and “an injunction prohibiting defendants from
again calling CIS a hate group and requiring defendants to
state on the SPLC website that CIS is not a hate group,
pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1964(a).” Id.
survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated the
two principles underlying its decision in Twombly:
“First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all
of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable
to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
And “[s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible
claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.”
Id. at 679, citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content
“allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “The plausibility
standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. A pleading must offer more than “labels
and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action, ” id.,
quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
must “treat the complaint's factual allegations as
true and must grant plaintiff ‘the benefit of all
inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.'” Sparrow v. United Air Lines,
Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal
citation omitted), quoting Schuler v. United States,
617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979); see also Am.
Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C.
Cir. 2011), quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d
970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Therefore, when considering a
motion to dismiss, a court must construe a complaint
liberally in the plaintiff's favor. Kowal v. MCI
Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
Nevertheless, the court need not accept inferences drawn by
the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts
alleged in the complaint, nor must the court accept
plaintiff's legal conclusions. Id.; see also
Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002).
In ruling upon a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim, a court may ordinarily consider only “the facts
alleged in the ...