New York sex abuse victim attorney, James Marsh, explains how Paroline v. United States allowed for victims of child pornography to collect restitution.
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A lot of our work involving victims of child pornography involves law reform and because we are on the new and cutting edge area of the law, when I came into this there wasn’t’ a lot of law. Victims of child pornography were not seeking restitution; they were not seeking compensation by and large. And so over the past five years we’ve really had a concerted effort at our law firm to not only do the legal work and not only to do some of the social work to help our clients achieve some sense of normality. But we’ve also been pushing the courts and the government to reform the laws and reform the practice of dealing with victims in addressing their needs.
One of the biggest honors was a year ago when our case on child pornography compensation was heard by the United States Supreme Court. This took a tremendous amount of work over really a three or four year period of time where we were litigating in every federal court in the country, every court of appeals, circuit court, and finally up to the Supreme Court. And what’s interesting about the Paroline case it was a lot of firsts. One of the things that often gets forgot about the case is it was the first time that a victim argued on their own behalf before the United States Supreme Court. That’s in history.
It’s also the first time a victim of child pornography brought their claims to the highest court. But more importantly, it was also the first time that the Supreme Court found that an individual could be achieve compensation through a crime that was committed on the internet by an individual that the victim did not even know. So one of the most significant aspects of this case is it established liability that victims are entitled to compensation on the internet from an individual that they didn’t know who possessed images and were part of a child pornography market. So it is part of an evolving sort of concept of both victim’s law, victim’s rights law, and also child pornography on the internet, which is now a transnational and international type of crime and exploitation.