Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 537 U.S. 393 (2003)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit

No. 01-1118. Argued December 4, 2002—Decided February 26, 2003*

Respondents, an organization that supports the legal availability of abortion and two facilities that perform abortions, filed a class action alleging that petitioners, individuals and organizations that oppose legal abortion, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U. S. C. 1962(a), (c), and (d), by engaging in a nationwide conspiracy to shut down abortion clinics through "a pattern of racketeering activity" that included acts of extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, 1951. In concluding that petitioners violated RICO's civil provisions, the jury found, among other things, that petitioners' alleged pattern of racketeering activity included violations of, or attempts or conspiracy to violate, the Hobbs Act, state extortion law, and the Travel Act, 1952. The jury awarded damages, and the District Court entered a permanent nationwide injunction against petitioners. Affirming in relevant part, the Seventh Circuit held, inter alia, that the things respondents claimed were extorted from them—the class women's right to seek medical services from the clinics, the clinic doctors' rights to perform their jobs, and the clinics' rights to conduct their business— constituted "property" for purposes of the Hobbs Act. The Court of Appeals further held that petitioners "obtained" that property, as 1951(b)(2) requires. The court also upheld the issuance of the nationwide injunction, finding that private plaintiffs are entitled to obtain injunctive relief under 1964(c).


1. Because all of the predicate acts supporting the jury's finding of a RICO violation must be reversed, the judgment that petitioners violated RICO must also be reversed. Pp. 400-410.

(a) Petitioners did not commit extortion within the Hobbs Act's meaning because they did not "obtain" property from respondents. Both of the sources Congress used as models in formulating the Hobbs Act—the New York Penal Code and the Field Code, a 19th-century model penal code—defined extortion as, inter alia, the "obtaining" of

*Together with No. 01-1119, Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women, Inc., et al., also on certiorari to the same court.


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