Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of RICO Claim Finding Lack of Jurisdiction and Failure to Satisfy Statutory Standing

Limaco v. Wynn, 2023 WL 154965 (9th Cir., Jan. 11. 2023) 

Appellant Angelica Limcaco appeals the dismissal of her civil claim brought under RICO and the 9th Circuit affirmed.

Limcaco sued in federal district court in California under RICO. The core of Limcaco’s claim is that Appellees illegally influenced the appointment of WLV’s counsel, Elayna Youchah, as a magistrate judge in the District of Nevada where the Nevada Matter was pending.  She contends that Appellees were part of a RICO conspiracy to protect Wynn casino gaming licenses and that losing the Nevada Matter would threaten those licenses.

First, the district court properly determined that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Buckley. “[M]ere injury to a forum resident is not a sufficient connection to the forum.” Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 290 (2014). “The proper question is not where the plaintiff experienced a particular injury or effect but whether the defendant’s conduct connects him to the forum in a meaningful way.” Id. Limcaco failed to allege that Buckley directed any conduct at California or that her claims arise out of that purposeful direction. 

Second, the district court also properly determined that nationwide service of process under 18 U.S.C. § 1965(b) was inappropriate. Nationwide service under § 1965(b) requires a court to have personal jurisdiction over at least one of the participants, no other district to be able to assert personal jurisdiction over all the alleged co-conspirators, and facts showing the existence of a multidistrict conspiracy encompassing defendants.  Limcaco’s bare assertions that “there is no indication” that Nevada has jurisdiction over ML Strategies, or that Massachusetts had jurisdiction over Buckley, do not establish that § 1965(b) applies, particularly when the First Amended Complaint’s (FAC) primary theory is that all the purported bad actors were engaged in a scheme aimed at assisting a Nevada entity in securing gaming licenses in Massachusetts.

Third, Limcaco similarly failed to satisfy statutory standing under RICO because she fails to allege an injury to business or property through a RICO violation.  Limcaco asserts injuries under theories of honest services fraud, loss of chance to pursue her claim (the Nevada Matter), lost damages from the Nevada Matter, and legal fees. The district court did not err in concluding that “deprivation of honest services alone does not constitute concrete financial loss for purposes of pleading RICO’s statutory standing requirement.” Additionally, Limcaco’s assertion that she suffered injury from the lost ability to pursue her claim is not concrete nor financial because she litigated the Nevada Matter before the district court and this court on appeal.  Limcaco’s lost damages claim similarly fails because it presupposes success on the merits, which were never addressed.

Lastly, Limcaco cites no case in which this court has ever recognized the inurement of legal fees as a cognizable injury under RICO.  Even if legal fees could be a cognizable interest as “deprivation[s] of money,” Limcaco’s assertions still fail to be sufficiently financial or concrete. Next, Limcaco cannot establish any injury “by reason of” a RICO violation because she cannot show that Appellees’ conduct was the but-for or proximate cause of any injury.  Limcaco’s complicated theory of causation turns on a “cascading chain of events” spanning multiple years and involving several third parties. Limcaco does not adequately allege that, but-for the Appellees’ unlawful conduct in elevating Youchah, her injury would not have occurred because the district court dismissed her claim as time barred, and we affirmed that dismissal on appeal. Similarly, Limcaco fails to sufficiently allege proximate causation because her allegations are conditioned on several independent events2 and do not show that “the alleged violation led directly to the plaintiff’s injuries.” 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s