Cassell to argue victim’s rights case on restitution for traffic-related crimes before Arizona Supreme Court

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor Paul Cassell

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor Paul Cassell will argue an important crime victims’ rights case before the Arizona Supreme Court on April 25.  The case involves whether a $10,000 cap on restitution for certain traffic-related crimes imposed by the Arizona legislature is unconstitutional in light of the Arizona’s Victims’ Bill of Rights, which gives crime victims a constitutional right to restitution. Cassell, joined by Colleen Clase of Arizona Voice for Crime Victims, will argue that the cap is unconstitutional.

The case arose as follows:  A juvenile identified as “G.O.” criminally made an illegally left turn, hitting crime victim A.B. on his motorcycle.  The collision caused serious bodily injury to A.B., including economic losses far in excess of $10,000.  At sentencing, however, the juvenile court judge awarded the victim only $10,000 in restitution, citing a statute imposing a $10,000 cap on such restitution for traffic-related crimes. A.B. sought review in the Arizona Supreme Court of the issue of whether the cap is unconstitutional, under Arizona’s Victim’ Bill of Rights, which extends to victims the right to “to receive prompt restitution from the person or persons convicted of the criminal conduct that caused the victim’s loss or injury” and also a right to be treated with “justice” and “fairness.”

Cassell’s brief on behalf of the victim states in part: “In 1990, the Arizona voters approved Arizona’s Victims’ Bill of Rights to “preserve and protect victims’ rights to justice and due process.”  Ariz. Const. art. II, § 2.1(A)(8).  Among the rights the voters extended to crime victims were constitutional rights to “prompt restitution,” Ariz. Const. art. II, § 2.1(A)(8), and to “be treated with fairness,” Ariz. Const. art. II, § 2.1(A)(1).  The decisive issue before the Court is what Arizona’s voters understood the terms “restitution” as well as “justice” and “fairness” to mean when they acted in 1990.  As plain language and context make clear, the electorate would have understood those terms to mean payment from the defendant which would make the victim whole.  Any other interpretation would turn a constitutional right to restitution into a triviality, in which restitution of merely a penny would satisfy the right.”

The oral argument will be broadcast (and archived) over the web here:

Cassell is handling the case as part of work with the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Appellate Clinic.