RUSSELL v. UNITED STATES
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
Argued April 24, 1985
Decided June 3, 1985
Title 18 U.S.C. 844(i) makes it a crime to maliciously damage or destroy, or attempt to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, "any building . . . used . . . in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce." Petitioner, who was earning rental income from a two-unit apartment building and treated it as business property for tax purposes, was convicted for violating 844(i) after he unsuccessfully attempted to set fire to the building, and the conviction was affirmed on appeal. Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals rejected his contention that the building was not commercial or business property, and therefore was not capable of being the subject of an offense under 844(i).
Section 844(i) applies to petitioner's apartment building. The language of the statute expresses an intent by Congress to exercise its full power under the Commerce Clause, and the legislative history indicates that Congress at least intended to protect all "business property." The rental of real estate is unquestionably an activity that affects commerce for purposes of the statute, and the congressional power to regulate the class of activities that constitute the rental market for real estate includes the power to regulate individual activity within that class, such as the local rental of an apartment unit. Pp. 859-862.
738 F.2d 825, affirmed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
Julius Lucius Echeles argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was Frederick F. Cohn.
Christopher J. Wright argued the cause pro hac vice for the United States. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Lee, Assistant Attorney General Trott, Deputy Solicitor General Wallace, and Thomas E. Booth.
JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented is whether 18 U.S.C. 844(i) applies to a two-unit apartment building that is used as rental property. [471 U.S. 858, 859]
Petitioner owns an apartment building located at 4530 South Union, Chicago, Illinois. He earned rental income from it and treated it as business property for tax purposes. In early 1983, he made an unsuccessful attempt to set fire to the building 1 and was consequently indicted for violating 844(i). Following a bench trial, petitioner was convicted and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. The District Court 2 and the Court of Appeals 3 both rejected his contention that the building was not commercial or business property, and therefore was not capable of being the subject of an offense under 844(i).
Section 844(i) uses broad language to define the offense. It provides:
The legislative history indicates that Congress intended to exercise its full power to protect "business property." 5 Moreover, after considering whether the bill as originally introduced would cover bombing of police stations or churches, 6 the bill was revised to eliminate the words "for [471 U.S. 858, 861] business purposes" from the description of covered property. 7 Even after that change, however, the final Report on the bill emphasized the "very broad" coverage of "substantially all business property." 8 In the floor debates on the final bill, although it was recognized that the coverage of the bill was extremely broad, the Committee Chairman, Representative Celler, expressed the opinion that "the mere bombing of a private home even under this bill would not be [471 U.S. 858, 862] covered because of the question whether the Congress would have the authority under the Constitution." 9 In sum, the legislative history suggests that Congress at least intended to protect all business property, as well as some additional property that might not fit that description, but perhaps not every private home.
By its terms, however, the statute only applies to property that is "used" in an "activity" that affects commerce. The rental of real estate is unquestionably such an activity. We need not rely on the connection between the market for residential units and "the interstate movement of people," 10 to recognize that the local rental of an apartment unit is merely an element of a much broader commercial market in rental properties. The congressional power to regulate the class of activities that constitute the rental market for real estate includes the power to regulate individual activity within that class. 11
Petitioner was renting his apartment building to tenants at the time he attempted to destroy it by fire. The property was therefore being used in an activity affecting commerce within the meaning of 844(i).
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
[ Footnote 2 ] 563 F. Supp. 1085 (ND Ill., ED 1983).
[ Footnote 3 ] 738 F.2d 825 (CA7 1984).
[ Footnote 5 ] Section 844(i) was passed as part of Title XI of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. 84 Stat. 922, 952. The section originated because of the need "to curb the use, transportation, and possession of explosives." Hearings on H. R. 17154, H. R. 16699, H. R. 18573 and Related Proposals before Subcommittee No. 5 of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 91st Cong., 2d Sess., 1 (1970) (hereinafter Hearings). After hearings before a House Subcommittee, Title XI emerged from two bills, H. R. 18573 and H. R. 16699, 91st Cong., 2d Sess., that Representative McCullough introduced in the House of Representatives and that were referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. 116 Cong. Rec. 35198 (1970) (statement of Rep. McCullough). H. R. 16699 stated, in pertinent part:
[ Footnote 6 ] Shortly after Assistant Attorney General Wilson made the comment quoted in n. 5, supra, Representative Rodino of New Jersey engaged in the following colloquy with Wilson:
[ Footnote 7 ] See id., at 300:
[ Footnote 8 ] The Report stated in pertinent part:
[ Footnote 9 ] See 116 Cong. Rec. 35359 (1970); see also id., at 35198 ("[T]he committee extended the provision protecting interstate and foreign commerce from the malicious use of explosives to the full extent of our constitutional powers") (statement of Rep. McCullough); id., at 37187 ("The reach of the law . . . is greatly extended by making it unlawful to damage or destroy property which is used in or affects interstate commerce. Nearly all types of property will now be protected by the Federal law") (statement of Rep. MacGregor).