Utah Appellate Clinic Secures Victory for Child Pornography Victims

March 19, 2013—Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Amy and Vicky, two child pornography victims, in an appeal brought by the Utah Appellate Clinic. Under the direction of Professor Paul Cassell, the Appellate Clinic had argued that the district court had erred in declining to award any restitution to Amy and Vicky from defendant Joseph Cantrelle, who had been convicted of possessing child pornography images depicting them. The Ninth Circuit agreed, remanding to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California for an award of restitution to the victims.

Adopting arguments made by Cassell, the Ninth Circuit held in a published opinion that “the district court abused its discretion in refusing to order any restitution. . . . Our review of the record demonstrates that petitioners provided sufficient evidence to establish a causal connection between defendant’s offense and petitioners’ losses” to justify an award of full restitution.

The ruling is another victory in Cassell’s battle to bring the issue of restitution for child pornography victims to the United States Supreme Court. Cassell currently has pending before the Supreme Court a petition for review of the restitution issue in another Ninth Circuit case. The U.S. Department of Justice is currently set to file it response to the petition on April 8.  Cassell’s efforts were also recently profiled in The New York Times. Cassell said, “Yesterday’s ruling demonstrates that the issue of the proper restitution in child pornography cases continues to divide the lower courts. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will soon grant a petition for review of the issue and issue a decision firmly upholding the right of child pornography victims to full restitution from the convicted criminals who have harmed them.”

The Utah Appellate Clinic provides an opportunity for students to work on appellate litigation under the guidance of an experienced attorney.  In this case, three students – Jeremy Christensen, Jonathan Hornack, and Diana Bradley – all assisted Professor Cassell in drafting pleadings in the case.