A federal judge Thursday dismissed the Justice Department's civil racketeering lawsuit that sought to place the International Longshoremen's Association under federal supervision and to oust its top officers for alleged mob influence.
U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser of Brooklyn said the government's lawsuit, filed under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, was flawed by "incoherent pleading" that did not comply with federal court rules requiring lawsuits to present a short, concise statement of the facts.
In a 109-page decision, Glasser said the government could file an amended lawsuit within 60 days. He added, though, that he was "less certain that the government can adequately allege a cognizable RICO enterprise that includes all the defendants" named in the original lawsuit.
The ILA said in a statement that it was "delighted" with the dismissal. "This case was based on outdated stereotypes of the ILA, was an insult to ILA members, and never should have been brought. While Judge Glasser has given the government the right to file a new complaint, we hope that the government will realize on reflection that the public interest is not served by further litigation."
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn said government attorneys would study the judge's decision before deciding on their next move.
The RICO suit, filed in July, 2005, claimed that since 1995 the Genovese and Gambino crime families had conspired with ILA officials in a "waterfront conspiracy" that used extortion, money laundering and wire and mail fraud to control the union and its benefit programs.
The lawsuit sought to place the union under a federal monitor and to oust several top ILA officials, including John Bowers, the union's president from 1987 until his retirement in July.
The lawsuit also listed more than 30 "nominal defendants" who weren't accused of wrongdoing but were included because of their positions. The nominal defendants included all ILA officials with the rank of vice president or above, as well as jointly operated ILA-management benefit programs.
At a hearing last summer on defense motions to dismiss the case, Glasser criticized the government for including what he said was voluminous, extraneous history about decades of mob influence on the docks.
The judge was especially critical of the lawsuit's inclusion by reference of allegations from several previous cases involving allegations of Mafia racketeering on the docks. In dismissing the case, Glasser said the way the government's case was assembled made the allegations difficult for him to follow and for the defendants to rebut.
The judge said the court "should not be required to read through six different pleadings, stretching back some 17 years, in addition to various peripheral documents, in order to decipher the basic elements of the government's claim in this action, nor should the defendants be expected to undertake such an endeavor in preparing an answer" to the lawsuit.
Glasser said the government's failure to provide a "short and plain" statement of its case justified dismissal, but he also said that federal lawyers had failed to properly allege a pattern of racketeering, or specific acts of extortion or wire or mail fraud.
"The amended complaint contains virtually no allegations regarding the structure and organization of the alleged Waterfront Enterprise, and leaves a plethora of unanswered questions regarding the membership, purpose and structure of that entity," Glasser wrote.
He added, "At best, the amended complaint depicts the Waterfront Enterprise as a quasi-discrete commercial ecosystem, populated by various entities interconnected in a web of personal and commercial relationships that evolves organically as each entity pursues its own interests, some of which coincide with those of other denizens of the waterfront commercial habitat and others being quite adversely aligned. The same could be said of virtually any commercial or geographic sector...and simply does not rise to the level of an organized, unitary enterprise as required by RICO."