Court Takes Narrow View of Hobbs Act in Abortion Clinic Case:
The Supreme Court has handed down a unanimous opinion in Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, a case involving legal remedies to block abortion clinic protests. Here is the introduction of the opinion, authored by Justice Breyer:
A section of Title 18 of the United States Code (called the Hobbs Act) says that an individual commits a federal crime if he or she "obstructs, delays, or affects commerce" by (1) "robbery," (2) "extortion," or (3) "commit[ting] or threaten[ing] physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section." §1951(a) (emphasis added). The dispute in these cases concerns the meaning of the underscored words, in particular the words, "in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section." Does this phrase refer to (violence committed pursuant to) those plans or purposes that affect interstate commerce through robbery or extortion? Or does it refer to (violence committed pursuant to) those plans or purposes that affect interstate commerce, plain and simple? If the former, the statute governs only a limited subset of violent behavior, namely, behavior connected with robbery and extortion. If the latter, the statute governs a far broader range of human activity, namely, all violent actions (against persons or property) that affect interstate commerce. In our view, the former, more restrictive reading of the Act is the correct interpretation.