Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 537 U.S. 393, 13 (2003)

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Cite as: 537 U. S. 393 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

ruption achieved their ultimate goal of "shutting down" a clinic that performed abortions, such acts did not constitute extortion because petitioners did not "obtain" respondents' property. Petitioners may have deprived or sought to deprive respondents of their alleged property right of exclusive control of their business assets, but they did not acquire any such property. Petitioners neither pursued nor received "something of value from" respondents that they could exercise, transfer, or sell. United States v. Nardello, 393 U. S. 286, 290 (1969). To conclude that such actions constituted extortion would effectively discard the statutory requirement that property must be obtained from another, replacing it instead with the notion that merely interfering with or depriving someone of property is sufficient to constitute extortion.

Eliminating the requirement that property must be obtained to constitute extortion would not only conflict with the express requirement of the Hobbs Act, it would also eliminate the recognized distinction between extortion and the separate crime of coercion—a distinction that is implicated in these cases. The crime of coercion, which more accurately describes the nature of petitioners' actions, involves the use of force or threat of force to restrict another's freedom of action. Coercion's origin is statutory, and it was clearly defined in the New York Penal Code as a separate, and lesser, offense than extortion when Congress turned to New York law in drafting the Hobbs Act.10 New York case

10 New York Penal Law 530 (1909), Coercing another person a misdemeanor, provided: "A person who with a view to compel another person to do or to abstain from doing an act which such other person has a legal right to do or to abstain from doing, wrongfully and unlawfully,

"1. Uses violence or inflicts injury upon such other person or his family, or a member thereof, or upon his property or threatens such violence or injury; or,

"2. Deprives any such person of any tool, implement or clothing or hinders him in the use thereof; or,

"3. Uses or attempts the intimidation of such person by threats or force, "Is guilty of a misdemeanor."


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