105 Iowa L. Rev. 2299 (2020)
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The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, makes it a federal crime to obstruct, delay, or affect commerce through robbery or extortion. “Commerce” is the federal jurisdictional hook that elevates robbery to a federal crime. The commerce hook grants jurisdiction for all robberies that Congress’s Commerce Clause power reaches. This Note argues that federal Hobbs Act robbery prosecutions for individual, localized robbery eviscerates meaningful dual federalism distinctions and has led to confusion among lower courts and patchwork definitions for what it means to “affect commerce” for these cases. This Note proposes three solutions—at least one for each coordinate branch of government—to solve the problem. For the judicial branch, the Supreme Court should declare the Hobbs Act unconstitutional because it grants Congress a police power to reach purely local robbery that should be left to state prosecution and that “commerce” should be interpreted consistently with its meaning at the time of the Hobbs Act’s passage. For the legislative branch, Congress should amend the Hobbs Act to only allow federal prosecution of robberies that “substantially and directly” affect commerce. The Note concludes that the judicial and legislative solutions for Hobbs are unlikely, so pragmatically, the executive branch should adopt prospective enforcement policies that make clear Hobbs charges should not be brought for de minimis, localized robbery. Each of these solutions would aid in restoring the appropriate balance between federal and state criminal robbery law thus, keeping federal resources trained on the most pressing national concerns.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020