Paroline v. Amy Unknown – Supreme Court News Roundup
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Salt Lake Tribune
On Wednesday, the University of Utah law professor will make that argument before what will be his most important audience yet: the U.S. Supreme Court. It is the first time a crime victim’s attorney has appeared before the court in a criminal case filed by the government; the outcome may result in a historic decision for crime victims’ rights.
Friday, January 17, 2014
A Seattle attorney, representing a woman victimized as a child and still being traumatized by pedophiles, will attend a U.S. Supreme Court hearing next week in a case to decide if offenders can be ordered to compensate victims whose online images are viewed and traded over and over.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
When the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case about how much possessors of child pornography must pay their victims, two Willamette University law professors and four law students will be in the chambers. Although none of them will speak, they already will have had their say. They have filed a friend-of-the-court brief summarizing the arguments by the Netherlands national agency that monitors child sexual abuse and human trafficking. It is one of 13 such briefs filed in the case, other than those by the parties themselves.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Thirty-four states, dozens of victims’ rights and child advocacy groups, local prosecutors and members of Congress are urging the court to uphold the ruling against Paroline by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A woman whose childhood rapes by her uncle were captured on camera and widely traded on the internet wants the Supreme Court to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view the brutal images on their computers.
Sentencing Law and Policy Blog
I actually think better consequences can and will ultimately prevail for future federal defendants convicted of unlawfully downloading child porn if Amy prevails in this case. This is because I think, in light of the instructions of 18 USC 3553(a), federal judges would in the future be fully justified (and arguably even required) to generally impose a shorter federal prison sentence on a child porn defendant if and whenever that defendant is to be held jointly liable for the full amount of documented economic losses.
The Supreme Court will delve into the sordid world of child pornography this week with a case that could break legal ground in the fight to curb juvenile porn — whether victims can seek full damages not only from their abusers but also from the people who produce, distribute and possess the illegal images.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
If upheld, the ruling would change the equation. Courts would not have to determine exactly how much harm any one defendant caused Amy. Instead, all defendants would be liable for the entire outstanding amount, raising the possibility that a few well-heeled people among those convicted might contribute most, if not all, of the remaining restitution.
Advocates for child pornography victims say that holding defendants liable for the entire amount of losses better reflects the ongoing harm that victims suffer each time someone views the images online. The threat of a large financial judgment, coupled with a prison term, also might deter some people from looking at the images in the first place, the advocates say.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will consider whether anyone who downloaded or distributed Amy’s images can be held liable for the entire psychiatric, vocational and legal cost of Amy’s degradation, estimated at $3.4 million. Its decision could set the standard for hundreds of other such cases in the future.
The Volokh Conspiracy Blog – Washington Post
Tomorrow I’m arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Paroline. an important case involving restitution for child pornography victims. I hope to persuade the Court that Congress meant what it said when it promised child pornography victims restitution for the “full amount” of their losses in criminal cases.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Supreme Court justices expressed compassion for a woman raped as a child as they struggled with how much money should be paid to her by one man convicted of possessing pornographic images of the abuse that have spread among thousands of online viewers.
U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared to struggle on Wednesday as they considered how much defendants convicted of possessing images of child pornography have to pay in restitution to victims.
Dallas Morning News
In court Wednesday, several justices agreed that Amy, a pseudonym used to protect the true victim’s identity, was harmed by all of those involved in the distribution and consumption of her images. But they remained skeptical that Paroline should be liable for her entire losses, as he played a relatively small part in her saga.
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that asks whether a victim of child pornography can seek millions of dollars from a defendant who had just two images of her on his computer.
The Supreme Court lent a sympathetic ear Wednesday to a victim of child pornography who wants the court to make it easier for victims to collect money from people convicted of downloading and viewing the pornographic images.
Los Angeles Times
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004 should allow Amy, now in her mid-20s, to collect from Paroline $3.4 million in damages — the amount she estimates she needs to compensate for the psychological injuries that arose from her abuse.
Mirror of Justice Blog
I felt today represented a good day for victims – a day in which Pope Francis’ call for us to “care for the vulnerable of the earth” was heard a little more clearly (Evangelii Gaudium, para. 209). This is not so much because of any expected outcome of the case. Indeed, I do not know where the Justices will come out on the very difficult questions at issue. Rather, two aspects of the day offer some hope that we are closer to the Pope’s vision of “restoring the dignity of human life” to all people.
National Law Journal
Three lawyers offered the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday three “stark choices” about how to pay restitution to child pornography victims, but none seemed to satisfy all of the justices. The three choices, several justices noted, would result in victims receiving nothing, everything or something in between the two. During arguments in Paroline v. United States, the high court struggled with how to give effect to Congress’ mandate in the Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children Act that these victims receive the “full amount” of their losses. The justices had agreed to decide what causal relationship, if any, between a criminal defendant’s act and a child pornography victim’s harm must the government or the victim prove for the victim to get restitution.
New York Times
In a Supreme Court argument on Wednesday that was part math problem and part seminar on the nature of culpability, the justices seemed to agree on just two things. The first was that Doyle R. Paroline, convicted in 2009 of possessing 280 images of child pornography, “is a bad guy,” as Justice Antonin Scalia put it. The second was that the child shown in two of those images had suffered terrible harm, first from sexual assaults committed by another man two decades ago and then from the mass circulation of depictions of her abuse. Beyond those two points, though, the justices seemed at a loss to identify a principled way to determine what Mr. Paroline owes Amy, as the woman is known in court papers.
The court is being asked how to apportion responsibility for compensation in child pornography cases when there are numerous defendants. First, the justices must determine whether the act of simply viewing child pornography directly causes enough injury to trigger mandatory restitution called for in a 1994 federal law; the law requires restitution for pornographers whose crimes caused “proximate harm.”
The Supreme Court left no doubt on Wednesday that it is willing to do its part to make sure that victims of child pornography get paid money to offset the harm done to them. But it also found itself very much in doubt about just what that part would be. The answer in the case of Paroline v. United States may depend upon how the Court understands two words: “apportion” and “contribution.”
How does the Supreme Court solve a division problem that Congress has dropped in its lap? The justices wrestled with that question Wednesday during the arguments in a case about how to award restitution to child pornography victims. They were struggling because most of them didn’t seem to see an easy or completely satisfying answer.
The Supreme Court faced three options Wednesday for extracting restitution from perpetrators of child pornography: Sock them for their victim’s full compensation, none of it, or something in between. The justices didn’t like any of those options.
A woman with the pseudonym Amy Unknown was at the Supreme Court on Wednesday as justices discussed the horrible events that changed her life: Her uncle raped her when she was a young girl, recorded that assault and other sex acts and put the images on the Internet, where they have been viewed tens of thousands of times.
All the justices seemed to think that those who downloaded the images of Amy should pay to help her put her life back together. But they struggled to decide what any one person should pay.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday took up a knotty question of proportional justice, in a case posing the question of how much individual viewers of child pornography owe to the victims of abuse. An animated, hour-long session of oral arguments drew questions from eight justices — Justice Clarence Thomas did not speak — on how much of $3.4 million restitution award sought by the plaintiff known as “Amy Unknown” should be paid by a defendant found with two images of her on his personal computer.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Al Jazeera America
But as victims’ advocates say, courts have had difficulty interpreting how that statute should be applied, and it was a question the U.S. Supreme Court considered on Wednesday in connection with Amy’s case. At stake is the concept of “joint and several liability,” in which multiple participants in a crime — in Amy’s case, there are perhaps thousands — can be required to pay the entire amount of restitution to a victim, regardless of whether the offender played a large or small role.
Friday, January 24, 2014
The legal issues in Paroline’s case may be complicated, but deciding whom to burden with the task of distributing restitution responsibilities fairly is simple. The bad guys, not the victims or the courts, should bear the burden. Imposing a substantial restitution order on a guy like Paroline will serve as a strong deterrent to others who may be considering becoming involved in the crime. It will also encourage young victims to speak out not only to achieve justice but also to obtain money they desperately need and deserve to help them heal.
On the Media
The Supreme Court is weighing how much defendants convicted of possessing images of child pornography should have to pay in restitution to the victims depicted in those images. The case involves a woman known as “Amy,” whose uncle raped her when she was a young girl and circulated photographs of the abuse online. He eventually went to jail, but those photos became among the most widely viewed child porn in the world. Karen Duffin reports on Amy’s quest for restitution.
Child pornography is a growing international scourge. Demand has increased, as have the number of victims and the cruelty of the crimes. Anonymous online sharing has exacerbated the problem, rendering the industry more opaque and prosecution more elusive. The victims of this sordid market need assistance, not legal machinations that impede recovery.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Oregon Statesman Journal
The impact of the court’s decision will be felt far beyond U.S. borders. Individuals consume more than 15 million child sexual abuse images in an international market valued at between $3 billion and $20 billion annually. Due to the rapid proliferation of Internet usage, the child pornography market is projected to continue to grow exponentially.
Monday, January 27, 2014
The Volokh Conspiracy Blog – Washington Post
Last week, I argued before the Supreme Court in Paroline v. U.S. & Amy. As the case caption itself suggests, our criminal justice system is shifting, at least to some modest degree, from a two-sided, “State v. Defendant” model to a three-sided model in which crime victims are free to enforce their own rights. This change is long overdue, as crime victims have their own independent concerns in the process that ought to be recognized.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Los Angeles Times
Sometimes, justice requires being fair even to those who don’t deserve it. And justice in this case means rejecting the argument that Paroline must pay for all his fellow criminals.
Tuesday, February 27, 2014
JURIST Guest Columnist Warren Binford of Willamette University College of Law argues that the US Supreme Court should hold individual possessors of child pornography liable for the full damages allowed under the Violence Against Women Act first to help victims of child pornography recover as quickly and fully as possible and to uphold US international treaty obligations …
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The three-way dispute in the test case before the Supreme Court on payments due to victims from those possessing child pornography has continued beyond the oral argument held on January 22. The extra briefs filed at the Court’s request debate whether the outcome in this case—Paroline v. United States—should be influenced by what the Court decided last month in Burrage v. United States.
The Court will not hold additional argument based on the new briefs; the Justices presumably will factor them into their continuing deliberations on Paroline’s fate.
Friday, March 28, 2014
New Jersey Law Journal
With a split in the circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case in late January. At oral argument, the justices seemed unusually confounded in attempting to give effect to the statutory requirement of restitution while determining the appropriate remedy for images of abuse circulated in the past and to be circulated in the future to possibly thousands of viewers, as in Amy’s case.
Justice Stephen Breyer asked if one person should pay the full amount of Amy’s losses while thousands have viewed the images, but he struggled to articulate how to calculate restitution in a reasonable amount. Focusing on the lack of proportionality, Justice Ruth Ginsburg noted that Amy’s uncle had been required to pay her only $6,325. Justice Antonin Scalia opined that Paroline was “a bad guy,” but reminded Amy’s lawyer of the requirements of due process. Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized Paroline’s position that if only one person had viewed the picture, he would be responsible for the entire damage, but “if a thousand people viewed the pornography and the harm was that much greater, nobody would be…on the hook for restitution.”
A lawyer for the federal government advocated an intermediate but not very clear approach and suggested that trial judges should try to allocate the losses among the number of defendants ordered to pay restitution after the victim proves aggregate causation for the harm. He argued that the defendant must be the cause-in-fact of the victim’s harm, which can be calculated by aggregating costs among the multiple defendants and then making appropriate adjustments.
In the meantime, the Supreme Court has asked the lawyers to submit an additional brief in view of its recent decision in Burrage v. United States. In that case, the court held that an enhanced punishment for heroin dealers where a death ensues from the ingestion of multiple drugs can be imposed only if prosecutors prove that the drug, which was the subject of the sale, was the actual cause of death of the victim.
How will the court rule? Will it place the burden on the victim to file successive lawsuits against those convicted of viewing her rape or will it place the burden on the perpetrator, who may or may not be able to pay the judgment, but who can seek contribution from his fellow wrongdoers? Will it accept the government’s view of allocating the total harm to the number of convicted defendants, adjusted by a “fudge factor”? Will it articulate an inspired compromise to guarantee that Amy does not get zero, but Paroline does not pay all, while acknowledging the statutory language of restitution of “the full amount of the victim’s losses”?
According to the Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Project, harm to the victims of abuse, like Amy, is caused by aggregation because each act of possession and distribution contributes to the harm of victims, fueling demand for materials degrading children. The elimination of the proximate cause requirement and the imposition of full payment on the possessors will deter these criminals from buying child pornography and, as a result, will lower demand.
We think that in the case of child pornography, the burden of filing successive lawsuits should fall on the perpetrator, not the victim. Eradication of such heinous crimes may be advanced by not only incarceration, but also the imposition of a financial penalty. As Judge Emilio Garza of the Fifth Circuit said, “It seems to me that we’re in this brave new world, where not only was there an actual rape, but I’m going to suggest to you there is a continuing digitized rape. Possession of the digitized recording of the rape contributes to the system, contributes to the economic benefit of those who produced this thing.”
To eliminate the scourge of child pornography, we must give effect to the statutory language and impose a financial burden on the viewers. We hope the Supreme Court agrees. We also hope that Congress considers and clarifies the standards appropriate for restitution across a broad range of crimes.
Oral Argument Audio and Transcript
Oral Argument Transcript
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