Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 537 U.S. 393, 16 (2003)

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408

SCHEIDLER v. NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR

WOMEN, INC.

Opinion of the Court

conduct to obtain property, there has been and continues to be a recognized difference between these two crimes, see, e. g., ALI, Model Penal Code and Commentaries 212.5, 223.4 (1980) (hereinafter Model Penal Code),13 and we find it evident that this distinction was not lost on Congress in formulating the Hobbs Act.

We have said that the words of the Hobbs Act "do not lend themselves to restrictive interpretation" because they " 'manifes[t] . . . a purpose to use all the constitutional power Congress has to punish interference with interstate commerce by extortion, robbery or physical violence.' " Cul-bert, supra, at 373 (quoting Stirone v. United States, 361 U. S. 212, 215 (1960)). We have also said, construing the Hobbs Act in Enmons, supra, at 411:

"Even if the language and history of the Act were less clear than we have found them to be, the Act could not properly be expanded as the Government suggests—for two related reasons. First, this being a criminal statute, it must be strictly construed, and any ambiguity must be resolved in favor of lenity" (citations omitted).

We think that these two seemingly antithetical statements can be reconciled. Culbert refused to adopt the view that Congress had not exercised the full extent of its commerce power in prohibiting extortion which "affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce." But there is no contention by petitioners here that their acts did not affect interstate commerce. Their argument is that

13 Under the Model Penal Code 223.4, Comment 1, pp. 201-202, extortion requires that one "obtains [the] property of another" using threat as "the method employed to deprive the victim of his property." This "obtaining" is further explained as " 'bring[ing] about a transfer or purported transfer of a legal interest in the property, whether to the obtainer or another.' " Id., 223.3, Comment 2, at 182. Coercion, on the other hand, is defined as making "specified categories of threats . . . with the purpose of unlawfully restricting another's freedom of action to his detriment." Id., 212.5, Comment 2, at 264.

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