Doyle R. Paroline pled guilty to possession of 150-300 images of child pornography. Included among those files on his computer were two photographs of Amy Unknown, a victim of child pornography. He was sentenced to 24 months of incarceration followed by release under supervision. Under a federal statute that mandates full restitution to victims of child pornography by those convicted of creating, distributing or possessing such material, the Government and Amy sought restitution in the amount of nearly $3.4 million. The district court denied restitution and held that the statute required the Government to prove that Paroline’s possession of the images was the proximate cause of the injuries for which restitution was sought. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and held that Paroline was responsible for restitution for all the victim’s losses even if his criminal acts occurred after the victim’s losses. On Wednesday, January 22, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Paroline v. United States. Two questions are presented to the Court: 1) In determining restitution in child pornography cases , is the award of restitution limited to losses proximately caused by the defendant’s criminal actions or may a defendant be required to pay restitution for all losses, regardless of whether his criminal acts proximately caused the loss? and 2) Is the Government correct in its argument that authorizing $3.4 million in restitution against a defendant to a victim of child pornography who has never had contact with the defendant may violate the Eighth Amendment ban on excessive fines in the absence of a proximate cause requirement in the setting of the amount of restitution assessed against that defendant? Our expert attended oral arguments and offered his impressions to a live Teleforum audience.
- John G. Malcolm, Director, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
- Moderator: Dean Reuter, Vice President and Director of Practice Groups, The Federalist Society