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Opinion of the Court
Circuits. Two Circuits, however, have held that an affirmative act of inducement by the public official is required to support a conviction of extortion under color of official right. United States v. O'Grady, 742 F. 2d 682, 687 (CA2 1984) (en banc) (“Although receipt of benefits by a public official is a necessary element of the crime, there must also be proof that the public official did something, under color of his public office, to cause the giving of benefits”); United States v. Aguon, 851 F. 2d 1158, 1166 (CA9 1988) (en banc) ("We find ourselves in accord with the Second Circuit's conclusion that inducement is an element required for conviction under the Hobbs Act”). Because the majority view is consistent with the common-law definition of extortion, which we believe Congress intended to adopt, we endorse that position.
II It is a familiar "maxim that a statutory term is generally presumed to have its common-law meaning.” Taylor v. United States, 495 U. S. 575, 592 (1990). As we have explained: “[W]here Congress borrows terms of art in which are accumulated the legal tradition and meaning of centuries of practice, it presumably knows and adopts the cluster of ideas that were attached to each borrowed word in the body of learning from which it was taken and the meaning its use will convey to the judicial mind unless otherwise instructed. In such case, absence of contrary direction may be taken as satisfaction with widely accepted definitions, not as a depar
2 See United States v. Garner, 837 F. 2d 1404, 1423 (CA7 1987), cert. denied, 486 U. S. 1035 (1988); United States v. Spitler, 800 F. 2d 1267, 1274–1275 (CA4 1986); United States v. Jannotti, 673 F. 2d 578, 594-596 (CA3) (en banc), cert. denied, 457 U. S. 1106 (1982); United States v. French, 628 F. 2d 1069, 1074 (CA8), cert. denied, 449 U. S. 956 (1980); United States v. Williams, 621 F.2d 123, 123–124 (CA5 1980), cert. denied, 450 U. S. 919 (1981); United States v. Butler, 618 F. 2d 411, 417–420 (CA6), cert. denied, 447 U. S. 927 (1980); United States v. Hall, 536 F. 2d 313, 320-321 (CA10), cert. denied, 429 U. S. 919 (1976); United States v. Hathaway, 534 F. 2d 386, 393-394 (CAI), cert. denied, 429 U. S. 819 (1976).
Opinion of the Court
ture from them.” Morissette v. United States, 342 U. S. 246, 263 (1952).
At common law, extortion was an offense committed by a public official who took “by colour of his office” 4 money that was not due to him for the performance of his official duties.5 A demand, or request, by the public official was not an element of the offense.6 Extortion by the public official was the rough equivalent of what we would now describe as “taking a bribe.” It is clear that petitioner committed that offense. The question is whether the federal statute, insofar
3 Or, as Justice Frankfurter advised, “if a word is obviously transplanted from another legal source, whether the common law or other legislation, it brings the old soil with it.” Frankfurter, Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes, 47 Colum. L. Rev. 527, 537 (1947).
4 Blackstone described extortion as “an abuse of public justice, which consists in an officer's unlawfully taking, by colour of his office, from any man, any money or thing of value, that is not due to him, or more than is due, or before it is due.” 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *141 (emphasis added). He used the phrase "by colour of his office,” rather than the phrase "under color of official right,” which appears in the Hobbs Act. Petitioner does not argue that there is any difference in the phrases. Hawkins' definition of extortion is probably the source for the official right language used in the Hobbs Act. See Lindgren, The Elusive Distinction Between Bribery and Extortion: From the Common Law to the Hobbs Act, 35 UCLA L. Rev. 815, 864 (1988) (hereinafter Lindgren). Hawkins defined extortion as follows: “[I]t is said, That extortion in a large sense signifies any oppression under colour of right; but that in a strict sense, it signifies the taking of money by any officer, by colour of his office, either where none at all is due, or not so much is due, or where it is not yet due.” 1 W. Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 316 (6th ed. 1787).
6 See Lindgren 882–889. The dissent says that we assume that "common-law extortion encompassed any taking by a public official of something of value that he was not ‘due.' Post, at 279. That statement, of course, is incorrect because, as stated in the text above, the payment must be “for the performance of his official duties.”
6 Lindgren 884-886.
? Petitioner argued to the jury, at least with respect to the extortion count, that he had been entrapped, see App. 20; however, in light of the jury's verdict on that issue, we must assume that he was predisposed to commit the crime.
Opinion of the Court
as it applies to official extortion, has narrowed the commonlaw definition.
Congress has unquestionably expanded the common-law definition of extortion to include acts by private individuals pursuant to which property is obtained by means of force, fear, or threats. It did so by implication in the Travel Act, 18 U.S. C. $ 1952, see United States v. Nardello, 393 U. S. 286, 289–296 (1969), and expressly in the Hobbs Act. The portion of the Hobbs Act that is relevant to our decision today provides:
“(a) 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 attempts 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 shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
“(b) As used in this section
“(2) The term 'extortion' means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or
under color of official right.” 18 U. S. C. $ 1951. The present form of the statute is a codification of a 1946 enactment, the Hobbs Act, which amended the federal AntiRacketeering Act. In crafting the 1934 Act, Congress was
8 The 1946 enactment provides:
“The term 'extortion' means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”” Act of July 3, 1946, ch. 537, § 1(c), 60 Stat. 420.
9 Section 2(b) of the 1934 Act read as follows:
"SEC. 2. Any person who, in connection with or in relation to any act in any way or in any degree affecting trade or commerce or any article or commodity moving or about to move in trade or commerce
Opinion of the Court
careful not to interfere with legitimate activities between employers and employees. See H. R. Rep. No. 1833, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., 2 (1934). The
The 1946 amendment was intended to encompass the conduct held to be beyond the reach of the 1934 Act by our decision in United States v. Teamsters, 315 U. S. 521 (1942).10 The amendment did not make any significant change in the section referring to obtaining property “under color of official right” that had been prohibited by the 1934 Act. Rather, Congress intended to broaden the scope of the Anti-Racketeering Act and was concerned pri
“(b) Obtains the property of another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.” Act of June 18, 1934, ch. 569, 82, 48 Stat. 979-980.
One of the models for the statute was the New York statute:
“Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, or the obtaining the [sic] property of a corporation from an officer, agent or employee thereof, with his consent, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.” Penal Law of 1909, $ 850, as amended, 1917 N. Y. Laws, ch. 518, codified in N. Y. Penal Law $ 850 (McKinney Supp. 1965).
The other model was the Field Code, a 19th-century model code:
“Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.” Commissioners of the Code, Proposed Penal Code of the State of New York $ 613 (1865) (Field Code).
Lindgren points out that according to the Field Code, coercive extortion and extortion by official right extortion are separate offenses, and the New York courts recognized this difference when, in 1891, they said the Field Code treats "extortion by force and fear as one thing, and extortion by official action as another.” People v. Barondess, 61 Hun. 571, 576, 16 N. Y. S. 436, 438 (App. Div. 1891). The judgment in this case was later reversed without opinion. See 133 N. Y. 649, 31 N. E. 240 (1892). Lindgren identifies early English statutes and cases to support his contention that official extortion did not require a coercive taking, nor did it under the early American statutes, including the later New York statute. See Lindgren 869, 908.
10 In United States v. Teamsters, the Court construed the exemption for " the payment of wages by a bona-fide employer to a bona-fide employee'” that was contained in the 1934 Act but is no longer a part of the statute. 315 U. S., at 527.
Opinion of the Court
marily with distinguishing between “legitimate” labor activity and labor “racketeering,” so as to prohibit the latter while permitting the former. See 91 Cong. Rec. 11899–11922 (1945).
Many of those who supported the amendment argued that its purpose was to end the robbery and extortion that some union members had engaged in, to the detriment of all labor and the American citizenry. They urged that the amendment was not, as their opponents charged, an antilabor measure, but rather, it was a necessary measure in the wake of this Court's decision in United States v. Teamsters. 11 In their view, the Supreme Court had mistakenly exempted labor from laws prohibiting robbery and extortion, whereas Congress had intended to extend such laws to all American citizens. See, e. g., 91 Cong. Rec. 11910 (1945) (remarks of Rep. Springer) (“To my mind this is a bill that protects the honest laboring people in our country. There is nothing contained in this bill that relates to labor. This measure, if passed, will relate to every American citizen”); id., at 11912 (remarks of Rep. Jennings) (“The bill is one to protect the right of citizens of this country to market their products without any interference from lawless bandits”).
Although the present statutory text is much broader 12 than the common-law definition of extortion because it encompasses conduct by a private individual as well as conduct
11 In fact, the House Report sets out the text of United States v. Teamsters in full, to make clear that the amendment to the Anti-Racketeering Act was in direct response to the Supreme Court decision. See H. R. Rep. No. 238, 79th Cong., 1st Sess., 1-10 (1945).
12 This Court recognized the broad scope of the Hobbs Act in Stirone v. United States, 361 U. S. 212, 215 (1960): “That Act speaks in broad language, manifesting a purpose to use all the constitutional power Congress has to punish interference with interstate commerce by extortion, robbery or physical violence. The Act outlaws such interference ‘in any way or degree.'”