Paroline v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: June 27, 2013
  • Case #: 12-8561
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 701 F.3d 749 (Fifth Cir. 2012)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the "proximate result" language of 18 U.S.C. § 2259(b)(3)(F) requires the government or victim to establish some, if any, "causal relationship or nexus between defendant's conduct and victim's harm or damages" in order to recover restitution.

Petitioner pled guilty to possession of images of child sexual exploitation. Respondent and one of the victims depicted in the images sought restitution from Petitioner under 18 U.S.C. § 3771, the Crime Victims Restitution Act (“CVRA”), and 18 U.S.C. § 2259, Mandatory restitution for victims of child sexual exploitation.

The district court rejected Respondent’s claim, finding no “proximate result” between Petitioner’s possession of the images and the harm to Respondent. Respondent appealed, seeking a writ of mandamus. A panel for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and denied granting the writ. Upon rehearing, the court granted the writ. That panel held the “proximate result” requirement only applied § 2259(b)(3)(F). The Fifth Circuit then reheard the case en banc.

The Fifth Circuit rejected Respondent’s appeal because CVRA only provides mandamus relief, and the conditions were not met to grant the writ. It then held that 18 U.S.C. § 2259 mandates Petitioner to provide restitution to the Respondent. While other circuits hold that 18 U.S.C. § 2259(b)(3)(F)’s requirement that claimants show a “proximate result” to any claim under 18 U.S.C. § 2259, the Fifth Circuit interpreted the statute as being a mandate upon defendants, and therefore requires no general conditions. Only claims under § 2259(b)(3)(F) must show “proximate result” per its express language. Petitioner appealed this ruling, and the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari on the following question: “What, if any, causal relationship or nexus between the defendant's conduct and the victim's harm or damages must the government or the victim establish in order to recover restitution under 18 U.S.C. §2259.”

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