Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used against anti-abortion demonstrators. A copy of the opinion can be found here.
The issue concerned the following language from the Hobbs Act:
whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or at-tempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section . . . .18 U. S. C. 951(a)
The Supreme Court analyzed the issue as follows:
The question, as we have said, concerns the meaning of the phrase that modifies the term"physical violence," namely, the words "in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section." Do those words refer to violence (1) that furthers a plan or purpose to affec[t] commerce . . . by robbery or extortion, or to violence (2) that furthers a plan or purpose simply to affec[t] commerce? We believe the former, more restrictive, reading of the text--he reading that ties the violence to robbery or extortion-- is correct.