Sunday, November 17, 2013

McCormick v. United States case brief

McCormick v. United States case brief summary
500 U.S. 257 (1991)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Petitioner elected public official sought certiorari upon the affirmance of his conviction by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for extorting property under color of official right in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 1951. The public official also challenged the affirmance of his conviction for filing a false income tax return in violation of 26 U.S.C.S. § 7206(1).

CASE FACTS
After receiving money from foreign doctors during his reelection campaign, the public official sponsored legislation that would have permitted experienced doctors to be permanently licensed without passing state licensing exams.

DISCUSSION
  • The appellate court concluded that proof of a quid pro quo was not required to establish a Hobbs Act violation because the proper inquiry was whether the parties intended payments to be "legitimate" campaign contributions. 
  • The Court disagreed with the view that a quid pro quo was not necessary for conviction under the Hobbs Act when an official receives a campaign contribution and held that the jury instructions to the same effect were error. 
  • It was unrealistic to conclude that a legislator committed the federal crime of extortion under color of official right when he acted for the benefit of constituents or supported legislation that furthered their interests, shortly before or after campaign contributions were solicited and received from those beneficiaries. 
  • It was also error to rely on the extortion conviction to affirm the tax conviction because an extortion conviction did not demonstrate that payments were not campaign contributions and hence taxable.

CONCLUSION
The public official's convictions for extortion under the Hobbs Act and for filing a false income tax return were reversed. The case was remanded to permit the appellate court to consider whether the public official was properly convicted for filing a false income tax return in the absence of a Hobbs Act conviction.

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