Late last year, Laffey, Bucci & Kent partner, Brian Kent, co-authored a brief in a major case currently being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Paroline v. U.S. and Amy Unknown, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether children depicted in pornographic images can seek restitution from people who view the images. A decision is expected this summer.
Brief Background of the Case
In the criminal case of U.S. v. Paroline, the victim in the images who is now a young woman sought restitution from Paroline (the criminal defendant) in an amount close to $3.4 million dollars. The federal judge refused to order the restitution and held that there was no evidence that the defendant’s actions resulted in specific damages or losses. The intermediate court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (Louisiana, Mississippi & Texas), disagreed and ordered the lower court to calculate a restitution amount. The defendant’s lawyers appealed the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brief Background of the Legal Issue
With passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, Congress intended for victims of sexual abuse and child sexual abuse to receive restitution from perpetrators. The statute at issue, 18 U.S.C. Section 2259, provides that child sex abuse victims are entitled to restitution for various damages, such as medical bills, psychological treatment, etc.
One of the statutory provisions requires a causal relationship between the damages being compensated and the actions of the defendant. In other words, the actions of the particular defendant must be causally related to the damages or must have led to the damages.
Appellate courts are divided as to whether this provision applies to all the damages being claimed or only applies to other general losses, such as pain and suffering damages.
In the Paroline case, the defendant’s main argument is that in child pornography cases, there must be a causal link between the damages and the actions of the defendant, the individual who viewed/possessed the images.
The National Crime Victim Bar Association’s Amici Curiae Brief Arguments
The basis of the argument is that perpetrators of child pornography crimes share in the common purpose of encouraging child sex abuse, regardless of whether they are producing, possessing, or viewing images depicting child sex abuse. Each is dependent on the actions of the others, and therefore anyone in the chain should be required to pay full restitution to the victim.
Even if a victim’s damages are $1.00 or $1,000,000, anyone in the chain should be ordered to pay the full amount (i.e., restitution). In a nutshell, if you produce, distribute, produce, possess, or view child sex abuse images, then you should be required to pay the victim a full amount of restitution, not just partial restitution.
Related Victim’s Rights Article: Petition to Open a 2 Year Window for Child Sex Abuse Victims in Pennsylvania