The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
This year's Supreme Court term, in addition to producing the occasional 4-4 split, has also produced some particularly interesting divisions among the justices in argued cases. In prior posts, I noted the court's unusual divisions in Luis v. United States and Bank Markazi v. Peterson. This morning, we can add Ocasio v. United States to that list, as the court split in an odd 5-3 fashion.
In Ocasio, the court considered whether, under the Hobbs Act, a conspiracy to commit extortion requires that the conspirators agree to obtain property from someone outside the conspiracy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said no, and this morning the Supreme Court agreed, concluding that Ocasio could be convicted of conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act even if there was no effort to obtain property from someone outside of the conspiracy. According to the court, a conviction could be sustained on proof that the defendant reached an agreement with the owner of the property in question to obtain that property under color of official right.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion for the court, joined by justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Breyer also authored a concurrence. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissent, as did Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts. Interestingly enough, this is the second time in the past two weeks that we've seen the chief justice and Sotomayor team up in dissent. They also dissented together (with the chief writing) in the Bank Markazi case.