Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 537 U.S. 393, 20 (2003)

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412

SCHEIDLER v. NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR

WOMEN, INC.

Stevens, J., dissenting

bility on those engaged in conduct within the Act's compass. See, e. g., 1963(a) (up to 20 years' imprisonment and wide-ranging forfeiture for a single criminal violation); 1964(a) (broad civil injunctive relief); 1964(c) (treble damages and attorneys' fees for private plaintiffs). It has already "evolv[ed] into something quite different from the original conception of its enactors," Sedima, S. P. R. L. v. Imrex Co., 473 U. S. 479, 500 (1985), warranting "concern[s] over the consequences of an unbridled reading of the statute," id., at 481. The Court is rightly reluctant, as I see it, to extend RICO's domain further by endorsing the expansive definition of "extortion" adopted by the Seventh Circuit.

Justice Stevens, dissenting.

The term "extortion" as defined in the Hobbs Act refers to "the obtaining of property from another." 18 U. S. C. 1951(b)(2). The Court's murky opinion seems to hold that this phrase covers nothing more than the acquisition of tangible property. No other federal court has ever construed this statute so narrowly.

For decades federal judges have uniformly given the term "property" an expansive construction that encompasses the intangible right to exercise exclusive control over the lawful use of business assets. The right to serve customers or to solicit new business is thus a protected property right. The use of violence or threats of violence to persuade the owner of a business to surrender control of such an intangible right is an appropriation of control embraced by the term "obtaining." That is the commonsense reading of the statute that other federal judges have consistently and wisely embraced in numerous cases that the Court does not discuss or even cite. Recognizing this settled definition of property, as I believe one must, the conclusion that petitioners obtained this property from respondents is amply supported by the evidence in the record.

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