On Thursday March 19, 2015, Professor Paul Cassell will testify before the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee regarding restitution for victims of federal child pornography crimes. Cassell will testify in support of the Amy and Vicky Act, recently introduced in the Senate by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The Act makes each defendant who is convicted of harming a child pornography victim jointly and severally liable for the full amount of the victim’s losses.
In January 2014, Cassell argued before the Supreme Court that a law enacted by Congress required a judge to order each defendant in a child pornography case to pay the full amount of restitution owed to a victim. Representing a young woman who proceeds in court under the name “Amy,” Cassell said it was too difficult to divide a victim’s losses among hundreds of defendants who had contributed to a victim’s losses by viewing and distributing her images. In April 2014, in a case known as Paroline v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Cassell, concluding that each defendant was responsible to pay only the fraction of the losses that he had caused. Senators Hatch and Schumer then introduced legislation to overrule the Court’s decision, known as the “Amy and Vicky Act.” Last month, the Senate approved the legislation by a vote of 98-0.
In his prepared remarks, Cassell urged the House to join the Senate in approving the legislation. He said the Act “would simplify the restitution process. By establishing set restitution amounts that district courts would award in child pornography cases, the legislation would return rationality to the restitution system, reduce the burden on trial courts, and most important assure victims of child pornography crimes that they will receive the full restitution that they desperately need. Congress should rapidly enact, and the President should sign, such legislation.”
Cassell’s remarks concluded: “Victims like Amy deserve to collect full restitution from those who harm them – something that the restitution statute has long promised in theory but failed to deliver in practice. The Supreme Court in Paroline seemed to recognize that its ruling narrowing the restitution that child pornography victims could receive would be a mere placeholder until Congress finally acted. Congress should act and put full restitution theory into actual practice. Child pornography victims deserve nothing less.”
A videolink for the broadcast of the hearing can be found here. Cassell’s testimony begins about an hour and 15 minutes into the hearing.