What is the Hobbs Act?


The Hobbs Act is a federal law enacted in 1964 that prohibits robbery or extortion. The act was enacted to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes, and is frequently used in connection with cases involving public corruption, commercial disputes, and corruption directed at members of labor unions.

At issue in Sekhar v. United States, was whether the Hobbs Act could apply to the advice of an attorney, who is a salaried employee of a government agency. I.e., does that advice amount to intangible property that could be the subject of extortion under the act. According to Kevin Russell on SCOTUSblog:

I know none of you care, but the statute in Sekar was originally designed for prosecuting mobsters engaged in extortion rackets. It prohibits “obtaining property” from a victim through a threat of force. That obviously covers extortion of cash or cars. The question in Sekar was whether it also covered more esoteric things like “legal advice.” (The victim in Sekar was allegedly threatened for recommending to his client, a government agency, that it not do business with the defendant).