Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 537 U.S. 393, 14 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

law applying the coercion statute before the passage of the Hobbs Act involved the prosecution of individuals who, like petitioners, employed threats and acts of force and violence to dictate and restrict the actions and decisions of businesses. See, e. g., People v. Ginsberg, 262 N. Y. 556, 188 N. E. 62 (1933) (affirming convictions for coercion where defendant used threatened and actual property damage to compel the owner of a drug store to become a member of a local trade association and to remove price advertisements for specific merchandise from his store's windows); People v. Scotti, 266 N. Y. 480, 195 N. E. 162 (1934) (affirming conviction for coercion where defendants used threatened and actual force to compel a manufacturer to enter into an agreement with a labor union of which the defendants were members); People v. Kaplan, 240 App. Div. 72, 269 N. Y. S. 161 (1934) (affirming convictions for coercion where defendants, members of a labor union, used threatened and actual physical violence to compel other members of the union to drop lawsuits challenging the manner in which defendants were handling the union's finances).

With this distinction between extortion and coercion clearly drawn in New York law prior to 1946, Congress' decision to include extortion as a violation of the Hobbs Act and omit coercion is significant assistance to our interpretation of the breadth of the extortion provision. This assistance is amplified by other evidence of Congress' awareness of the difference between these two distinct crimes. In 1934, Congress formulated the Anti-Racketeering Act, ch. 569, 48 Stat. 979. This Act, which was the predecessor to the Hobbs Act, targeted, as its name suggests, racketeering activities that affected interstate commerce, including both extortion and coercion as defined under New York law.11 Accordingly, the

11 A subcommittee of the Commerce Committee, known as the Copeland Subcommittee, employed a working definition of "racketeering," which included organized conspiracies to "commit the crimes of extortion or coercion, or attempts to commit extortion or coercion, within the definition of

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