Monday, January 31, 2005

Hobbs Act : An Unanswered Question

National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Joseph M. Scheidler, Case No. 99-3076 (01/28/2005): This opinion is the latest installment in a long-running civil case involving the use of RICO against right-to-life protestors. Much of the discussion centers around whether the decision to send the case back to the district court for further proceedings is consistent with the mandate of the Supreme Court. The Seventh Circuit raises, but does not decide, an interesting question about the meaning of the Hobbs Act, which the plaintiffs invoked for predicate acts under RICO. "Whoever . . . affects commerce . . . by robbery or extortion . . . or commits or threatens physical violence . . . in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section . . . " shall be guilty of the offense. Is "physical violence," not connected to robbery or extortion, a violation of the Act? The Seventh Circuit reviews the competing arguments and precedents, but concludes that the district court should have the opportunity to address this issue.