Cassell to Argue Victims’ Rights Case Before U.S. Supreme Court, Jan. 22

On January 22, 2014, Professor Paul Cassell of the University of Utah S.J. Quinney  College of Law, will argue before the United States Supreme Court 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 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 brief with the Court for the Utah Appellate Clinic explaining that Amy has received notices in more than 1,800 federal child pornography cases around the country. Cassell argues 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 the brief, Cassell writes that the restitution law involved “does not require a child pornography victim to establish precisely what fraction of, for example, her psychological counseling costs are the proximate result of an individual defendant’s crime.” The brief contends that the trial court “should have entered a restitution award in Amy’s favor for this amount, thereby making petitioner jointly and severally liable for her full losses along with other defendants convicted in other cases.”

On January 22, Cassell will ask the Court to affirm a decision in Amy’s favor by a lower court awarding Amy restitution for all her lifetime psychological counseling costs from a defendant convicted of possessing images depicting her being abused. Several students from the College of Law will travel with Cassell for the argument, including third year students Jeremy Christiansen and Taylor Mosolf. Both were involved in drafting the brief for Amy.

Cassell’s argument has been covered by many commentators, including Emily Bazelon, who wrote a lengthy piece for The New York Times Magazine about Amy. Other stories have appeared in Slate, and on KSL 5 News.  Additionally, The Salt Lake Tribune ran an advance feature on January 16.

Cassell noted, “This case gives the Supreme Court the opportunity to recognize the important principle that crime victims deserve full restitution from each and every defendant who harms them. Victims of crime have no choice about being victimized. The criminals who victimized them did.  Once convicted, those criminals should make full restitution.”