Evans v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:Northern District Court of New York

DOCKET NO.: 90-6105
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 504 US 255 (1992)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1991
DECIDED: May 26, 1992

C. Michael Abbott – on behalf of the Petitioner
William C. Bryson – on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Evans v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 09, 1991 in Evans v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 26, 1992 in Evans v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

The first of the two cases is Evans against United States, No. 90-6105.

This case comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

As part of an investigation of public corruption in Georgia, and FBI agent posing as a real estate developer had a number of conversations with petitioner, Evans, an elected member of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.

The agent sought Evans’ assistance in an effort to rezone a track of land and gave him $7,000 in cash which Evans failed to report on his state campaign financing disclosure form or on his federal income tax return.

Evans was convicted in District Court of extortion under the Hobbs Act, a federal statute which prohibits the obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.

The Court of Appeals affirmed explaining that under the Hobbs Act a violation occurs if the public official knew that he was being offered the payment in exchange for a specific requested exercise of his official power.

He need not have demanded or requested the money.

We granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in the Circuits over the question whether an affirmative act of inducement by a public official such as a demand is an element of the offense of extortion under color of official right prohibited by the Hobbs Act.

We agree with the Eleventh Circuit that it is not and, therefore, affirm the judgment of that court.

We base our construction of the statute largely on the fact that Congress has presumed to have adapted the common law definition of extortion which did not require a public official to make a demand or a request.

Justice O’Connor and Justice Kennedy have filed separate opinions concurring in part and concurring in the judgment; Justice Thomas has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice and Justice Scalia have joined.