On Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 10:00 a.m., the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Child Exploitation Restitution Following the Paroline v. United States Decision.”
Under current law, federal courts are required to award any child depicted in sexually explicit material restitution in “the full amount of the victim’s losses” as determined by the court. These losses can include medical services, physical or occupational therapy, and attorneys’ fees, among several other losses. Unlike child pornography production cases, where there is a limited universe of defendants who are generally joined in the same prosecution, the harm to the victims in end-user child pornography trafficking cases is often caused by hundreds or thousands of unrelated individuals who are often prosecuted across time and in different jurisdictions.
In recent years, there has been disagreement among the federal circuit courts over whether an end-user of child pornography—for example, a defendant who received, distributed, or possessed child pornography—must pay restitution and how to calculate the appropriate amount of restitution owed by an individual defendant. In response to the circuit split, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Paroline that an individual child pornography trafficking defendant may not be held liable for a victim’s aggregate damages incurred by potentially thousands of others who have viewed her images, and that defendants may be made liable only for the harm caused by their own conduct, not the conduct of others.
At this week’s hearing, the Crime Subcommittee will examine the issues surrounding child exploitation restitution orders, the implications of the Paroline Supreme Court decision, and why only 15 out of the approximately 8,500 identified victims of child exploitation have sought restitution. Witnesses for Thursday’s hearing are:
• Ms. Jill E. Steinberg, the National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, U.S. Department of Justice;
• The Honorable Paul G. Cassell, Professor of Criminal Law, University of Utah College of Law;
• Mr. Jonathan Turley, Professor, George Washington University Law School; and
• Mr. Grier Weeks, Executive Director, National Association to Protect Children.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) issued the joint statement below on this hearing:
“The trafficking of child pornography is a serious crime and those who cause the most vulnerable among us pain and suffering deserve to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Although no amount of money can ever take away the trauma these children have experienced, Congress has intended to ensure that victims of child exploitation receive the full amount of their losses from the production and ongoing trafficking of their images.
“Recently, the Supreme Court weighed in on child exploitation restitution and we look forward to having a discussion with experts this week on the constitutional questions surrounding this issue. Additionally, we need to examine why so few victims have sought restitution for the crimes committed against them and how Congress can address the barriers they face.”
Thursday’s hearing will take place in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building and will be webcast live at http://judiciary.house.gov/. Camera crews wishing to cover must be congressionally-credentialed and RSVP with the House Radio-TV Gallery at (202) 225-5214.