Evans v. United States, 504 U.S. 255, 24 (1992)

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Thomas, J., dissenting

McCormick v. United States, 500 U. S. 257 (1991). Readers of today's opinion should have little difficulty in understanding that the rationale underlying the Court's holding applies not only in campaign contribution cases, but in all 1951 prosecutions. That is as it should be, for, given a corrupt motive, the quid pro quo, as I have said, is the essence of the offense.

Because I agree that the jury instruction in this case complied with the quid pro quo requirement, I concur in the judgment of the Court.

Justice Thomas, with whom The Chief Justice and Justice Scalia join, dissenting.

The Court's analysis is based on the premise, with which I fully agree, that when Congress employs legal terms of art, it " 'knows and adopts the cluster of ideas that were attached to each borrowed word in the body of learning from which it was taken and the meaning its use will convey to the judicial mind.' " Ante, at 259 (quoting Morissette v. United States, 342 U. S. 246, 263 (1952)). Thus, we presume, Congress knew the meaning of common-law extortion when it enacted the Hobbs Act, 18 U. S. C. 1951. Unfortunately, today's opinion misapprehends that meaning and misconstrues the statute. I respectfully dissent.


Extortion is one of the oldest crimes in Anglo-American jurisprudence. See 3 E. Coke, Institutes *541. Hawkins provides the classic common-law definition: "[I]t is said, that Extortion in a large Sense signifies any Oppression under Colour of Right; but that in a strict Sense it signifies the Taking of Money by any Officer, by Colour of his Office, either where none at all is due, or not so much is due, or where it is not yet due." 1 W. Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 170 (2d ed. 1724) (emphasis added). Blackstone echoed that definition: "[E]xtortion is an abuse of public justice, which

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