COMMENT: Prosecuting Public Officials Under the Hobbs Act: Inducement as an Element of Extortion Under Color of Official Right. Skip over navigation
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Copyright 1985 University of Chicago.

University of Chicago Law Review

COMMENT: Prosecuting Public Officials Under the Hobbs Act: Inducement as an Element of Extortion Under Color of Official Right.

FALL, 1985

52 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1066


James P. Fleissner


The Hobbs Act has become a major federal weapon against corruption in state and local government. 1 A wide variety of state and local officials -- from a city electrical inspector to a governor -- have been convicted of extortion under the Act. 2 These officials have been prosecuted for taking many different kinds of property, ranging from cash payments and campaign contributions to golf vacations and entertainment. 3

By its terms the Act prohibits extortion affecting interstate commerce, with extortion defined as "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." 4 To reach state and local officials, federal prosecutors focus on the last clause of this definition; panyments received are characterized as property obtained "under color of official right." Although federal courts agree that the Hobbs Act may by used to prosecute state and local officials, they do not agree about what act must be proved for conviction. The majority of the federal courts of appeals that have addressed the issue hold that officials commit the requisite act merely by receiving payments not due them under the law. 5 Under this view, the public official need not commit any act inducing the payment; instead, the official's status and authority are said to exert a coercive force on the party making the payment. The Second Circuit, in contrast, requires the prosecution to show that the defendant actually ...
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