Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Hobbs Act Unconstitutional?

Yesterday the Justice Department filed charges against the sniper suspects under the Hobbs Act, which prohibits obstructing commerce by extortion or threatened physical violence. On Monday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals split evenly (8-8) over whether the Hobbs Act was unconstitutional in light of recent Supreme Court opinions which more appropriately limit congressional power under the commerce clause. Because the court split evenly, the lower court’s decision upholding the prosecution for local robberies under the act was upheld. Notably, the eight justices voting to affirm did not write an opinion, a move that was rightly criticized by Judge Edith Jones. The case will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court from here. While the Court has taken a strong interest in commerce clause cases, my bet is that they are unlikely to take this one unless a circuit split (that is, unless another federal circuit issues a conflicting ruling) develops.

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