The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Wednesday in two cases. In Paroline v. United States [transcript, PDF], the court is considering whether a causal relationship must exist under 18 USC § 2259 [text] between a defendant's conduct and the victim's harm in order for the victim to recover restitution. Doyle Paroline was convicted of possessing child pornography, including two childhood images of "Amy" being abused by her uncle. Paroline is appealing the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit's decision, in which the court ruled [opinion] that there was no requirement for the defendant to be the proximate cause of the victim's harm, which makes the defendant responsible to the victim for restitution for all losses suffered by the victim. Other federal appellate courts interpreted § 2259 as requiring proximate cause, such as a Second Circuit ruling [opinion, PDF] in a 2011 case also involving Amy that a victim of child pornography can only seek restitution from the person who created the image, not mere subsequent possessors of the image. The Supreme Court's ruling will settle the circuit split.
In Abramski v. United States [transcript, PDF], the Supreme Court is considering whether the Gun Control Act of 1968 [text] permits a lawful gun-purchaser to refrain from stating that they are the actual buyer when purchasing a gun for another person. Bruce Abramski purchased a handgun for his uncle, indicating on required forms that he was the "actual buyer" of the gun even though prior to the purchase, his uncle had sent Abramski a check for the cost of the gun, and following the purchase, Abramski transferred ownership to his uncle. Both men are lawful gun owners. Following the transfer of ownership, Abramski was prosecuted for making a false statement in claiming he was the "actual buyer." Abramski appeals from the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which held [opinion] that the identity of the purchaser is always a fact material to the sale and that the gun dealer was required to record the identity of the intended owner. Although the federal appellate courts uniformly agree that a buyer's intent to resell a gun to someone who could not lawfully purchase the gun violates the Gun Control Act, the Fourth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits have split with the Fifth and Ninth Circuits over whether it is also a violation of the Gun Control Act when the ultimate recipient can lawfully buy a gun. The Supreme Court's decision in this case will settle the circuit split.