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Brian Kent National Crime Victims Amici Curiae brie-fUS Supreme CourtWith the help of third year Drexel Law student and law clerk, Jasleen Singh, Laffey, Bucci & Kent partner, Brian Kent, co-authored an Amici Curiae brief in a landmark case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments were just heard last week. The Court is expected to make a decision this summer.

In Paroline v. United States and Amy Unknown, the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether the criminal defendant who was convicted of possessing child pornography is required to pay restitution to the victim, the child who was depicted in the pornographic images.

The National Crime Victim Bar Association Amici Curiae Brief

Mr. Kent contributed to the Amici Curiae brief presented by the National Crime Victim Bar Association (NCVBA), a special association of attorneys who represent victims of crime in civil claims against intentional perpetrators as well as those who hid the abuse or otherwise knowingly allowed it to continue.

Amici curiae is plural for amicus curiae which means “friend of the court.” Click here to download a copy of the brief.

It is not uncommon in important U.S. Supreme Court cases for multiple organizations to submit Amici Curiae briefs. The NCVBA brief was one of over ten such briefs submitted to the court. Other organizations which submitted briefs included:

  • Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Project, and Justice for Children
  • National District Attorneys Association
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
  • National Association to Protect Children

The Main Argument of the NCVBA Brief

The main crux of the NCVBA brief is the argument that individuals who either view or possess child pornography are perpetuating a silent conspiracy and are no worse than the actual perpetrators of the abuse. Essentially, perpetrators of child pornography crimes share in the common purpose of encouraging child sex abuse whether it is the act of producing, distributing, possessing, or reviewing such images. Because each act depends on the actions of the others in this silent conspiracy, any actor in the chain should be liable for all damages.

Mr. Kent’s contribution comes at a much-needed time, as the U.S. Supreme Court decides an issue critical to child sex abuse victims’ rights. Over the last few decades, increased accessibility via the internet has led to the proliferation of child pornography. In addition, recent and growing media attention to the problem of priest sex abuse and school sex abuse also sheds light on the underlying problem of child sex abuse.

The problem with the U.S. justice system is that old laws have simply not caught up to this unique problem. Only recently, states have begun to enact changes to civil and criminal child sex abuse statute of limitations laws, child sex abuse reporting laws, criminal statutes, etc., and many changes have been met with resistance by church organizations and school organizations.

Thus, we are at a crossroads. What the Court ultimately decides may pave the way for important and positive changes in how the U.S. justice system treats child sex abuse victims.