Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 537 U.S. 393, 12 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

We too have recognized that the "obtaining" requirement of extortion under New York law entailed both a deprivation and acquisition of property. See United States v. Enmons, 410 U. S. 396, 406, n. 16 (1973) (noting that "[j]udicial construction of the New York statute" demonstrated that "extortion requires an intent 'to obtain that which in justice and equity the party is not entitled to receive' " (quoting People v. Cuddihy, 151 Misc. 318, 324, 271 N. Y. S. 450, 456 (1934))). Most importantly, we have construed the extortion provision of the Hobbs Act at issue in these cases to require not only the deprivation but also the acquisition of property. See, e. g., Enmons, supra, at 400 (Extortion under the Hobbs Act requires a " 'wrongful' taking of . . . property" (emphasis added)). With this understanding of the Hobbs Act's requirement that a person must "obtain" property from another party to commit extortion, we turn to the facts of these cases.

There is no dispute in these cases that petitioners interfered with, disrupted, and in some instances completely deprived respondents of their ability to exercise their property rights. Likewise, petitioners' counsel readily acknowledged at oral argument that aspects of his clients' conduct were criminal.9 But even when their acts of interference and dis-means anything, it means that the familiar meaning of the word "obtain"— to gain possession of—should be preferred to the vague and obscure "to attain regulation of the fate of."

9 "Question: But are we talking about actions that constitute the commission of some kind of criminal offense in the process?

. . . . . "Mr. Englert: Oh, yes. Trespass.

"Question: Yes, and other things, destruction of property and so forth, I suppose.

"Mr. Englert: Oh, yes. . . .

. . . . . "Question: I mean, we're not talking about conduct that is lawful here. "Mr. Englert: We are not talking about extortion, but we are talking about some things that could be punished much less severely. It has never been disputed in this case . . . that there were trespasses." Tr. of Oral Arg. 8-9.

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