In a follow-up to a February 2010 profile of the Marsh Law Firm's groundbreaking work pursuing federal criminal restitution for victims of child pornography, the New York Times released this story today about a decision in the Second Circuit.
A victim of child pornography seeking restitution should not receive court-ordered payments from those who possessed the images but had no hand in creating them, a federal appeals panel ruled Thursday. The young woman, referred to in court papers as Amy, was known as “Misty” in pornographic images created by her uncle. The uncle was convicted and imprisoned on child pornography charges, but the images continue to be widely circulated and downloaded.
Since then, Amy’s lawyers have entered pleas in hundreds of child pornography possession cases around the country seeking payment for their client’s lost wages and counseling through federal criminal restitution statutes, asking for more than $3 million in each case. They have submitted nearly 700 of these pleas, and have recovered $345,000 so far.
Some federal district courts have granted nothing, stating that the link between Amy’s harm and the act of possession is too tenuous to support a restitution order. A Florida court ordered the full $3,680,153, with others in between.
The Second Circuit decision may be the toughest of several recent rulings in cases involving Amy; a decision out of the 11th Circuit upheld the restitution award, while others have denied payment.
Paul G. Cassell, a former federal judge and Utah law professor who has joined Amy’s legal team for appellate argument, said that with federal circuits divided, “we are hoping the Supreme Court will step in to resolve the issue and enforce the law as we think it was written — and not impose this impossible burden on crime victims to trace out to each and every defendant what exact percentage of the law was attributable to them.”
Amy's fight for justice is far from over, however, and her case is already pending in the Supreme Court. More on this in the coming days. For now, read the full story on the New York Times website here.