Paroline v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Remedies
  • Date Filed: April 23, 2014
  • Case #: 12-8561
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Roberts, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia and Thomas, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

Restitution for victims of child pornography is proper under §2259, and determined on a case-by-case basis, compensating victims to the extend that the defendant proximately caused the victim's losses.

This case presents how to determine the amount of restitution a possessor of child pornography must pay to the victim whose childhood abuse appears in the pornographic materials. Enacted as a component of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, 18 U.S.C. §2259 requires district courts to award restitution for certain federal criminal offenses, including possession of child pornography. The question is what causal relationship must be established between the defendant’s conduct and a victim’s losses for the purposes of determining the right to, and the amount of, restitution under §2259. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that §2259 does not limit restitution only to "losses proximately caused by the defendant." In addition, the Court of Appeals held that people who possess images should be personally liable to the child whose images they are of, even if they didn't solely cause the loss. The Supreme Court disagreed with the judgment of the Court of Appeals, reasoning that when a defendant possesses a child's images, where the child has outstanding losses caused by the trafficking of those images, and when the losses can be traced to the defendant possessing the images, but the exact amount of losses cannot be determined, a court should order restitution in an amount that relates to the defendant's role in the process that caused the losses.

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