Supreme Court limits restitution for child porn victim

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 Wednesday in Paroline v. United States [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that a victim of child pornography may be entitled to restitution under 18 USC § 2259 [text] but only to the extent the defendant's offense proximately caused the victim's losses. Doyle Paroline was convicted of possessing child pornography, including two childhood images of "Amy" being abused by her uncle. Paroline appealed 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. In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court found that the the Fifth Circuit's interpretation was incorrect, vacating the decision below and remanding the case for further consideration. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justice Sonia Sotomayor also filed a dissenting opinion.

The court heard oral arguments in the case in January after granting certiorari [JURIST reports] last June. JURIST Guest Columnist Warren Binford of Willamette University College of Law argued [JURIST op-ed] in February that the 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.

 

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