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Cassell Argues for Victims’ Rights Before United States Supreme Court

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January 22, 2014 — Professor Paul Cassell argued before the United States Supreme Court today in a case involving the restitution for victims of child pornography crimes.   Cassell represents “Amy,” a victim of child pornography.  The case involves a dispute over how to allocate the costs of Amy’s psychological counseling among the vast number of defendants who have been convicted of possessing Amy’s images. The widely watched case will be one of the first to explore how victims of Internet-based crimes are to receive compensation.

Joined by Professor Michael Teter and White Plains, New York, attorney James Marsh, Cassell has filed a briefwith the Court for the Utah Appellate Clinic explaining that Amy has received notices in more than 1800 federal child pornography cases around the country.  Today Cassell argued before the Court that each of the defendants should be jointly and severally liable to pay for all of Amy’s losses until she is fully compensated. In his argument before the Court, Cassell argued,  The background principle for intentional tortfeasors is they got stuck with the entire liability jointly and severally. That was the common law approach. Now, if you want to deviate from the common law approach and read a contribution action into the statute, we're certainly not opposed to that. But the overriding goal of Congress, as it always is when they deal with criminal, intentional tortfeasors, is to pay more attention to the victims and less about some notion of distributing losses among criminally culpable defendants.”

Cassell continued, “Congress doesn't give you any indication in this statute that they were concerned that one particular defendant might pay more than his, quote, ‘fair share,’ whatever that means. And the fundamental problem with the government's position is that after four and a half years of litigation, we still don't have any indication as to how much Amy is going to receive in this particular case. What the government proposes to do is to cast district courts adrift, as they have been for the last four and a half years, to look at a variety of the factors, including, remarkably, if we read the government's brief correctly, one of the factors is the need to get the victim full — full recovery. “

Listen to an audio recording of the oral arguments »

Several students from the College of Law travelled with Cassell for the argument, including third year students Jeremy Christiansen and Taylor Mosolf.  Both were involved in drafting the brief for Amy.

Click here to read the SCOTUS blog, which include an artist's rendering of Cassell arguing before the United States Supreme Court.