Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Workplace Hate Crime Meets Commerce Clause Threshold

In United States v. Hill, (4th Cir., June 13, 2019), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, held that the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act can constitutionally be applied to the assault of a co-worker who was preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment.  Defendant boastfully admitted to assaulting the coworker because of his sexual orientation. Finding that the commerce clause was broad enough to authorize federal coverage in this case, the majority said in part:
[W]hen Congress may regulate an economic or commercial activity, it also may regulate violent conduct that interferes with or affects that activity.
Judge Agee dissented, arguing:
To allow Congress to exercise its Commerce Clause power over the noneconomic offense of a bias-motived punch would allow Congress to exercise its Commerce Clause power based on such indirect—and often, as here, non-existent—connection to commerce that it converts the Clause into a federal police power.