Supreme Court Declines to Extend Hobbs Act to Cover Abortion Protest (Again)
The National Organization for Women sued abortion protestors, claiming that they had violated the Hobbs Act, a federal law that prohibits the obstruction of commerce by robbery or extortion. The Supreme Court in 2003 held that extortion requires a plan to obtain the property of another, and concluded that a woman's pursuit of an abortion was not the kind of property that extortion laws protect.
When the case went back to the Seventh Circuit, the court of appeals focused on whether the protestors violated a different prohibition in the statute: the use of physical violence in furtherance of a plan to violate the Hobbs Act. The court of appeals essentially held that the Hobbs Act prohibits any act of violence that affects commerce, whether or not the violence is tied to robbery or extortion. Thankfully, the Supreme Court today unanimously rejected (pdf) that expansive view of the Hobbs Act -- an interpretation that could have federalized any criminal act of violence against a business that has some connection to interstate commerce.
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