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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

U. S. Supreme Court Limits Restitution To Victims By Child Porn Users.

Justices limit restitution to victims by child porn users 

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that people who peddle in child pornography must help pay for their victims' pain and suffering – within reason.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices struck a compromise in the case of "Amy," whose images — taken by her uncle when she was 8 and 9 years old — have become some of the most popular on the Internet for traffickers in child pornography.

Rather than holding one man liable for up to $3.4 million in restitution, as the woman's lawyers urged, the court said trial judges should determine the fair amount. Three justices dissented and said the defendant can't be liable at all; a fourth said he should be liable for the full amount.

In the compromise ruling, the ultimate penalty for each purveyor of porn "would not be severe, but it would not be token," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in announcing the decision from the bench.

The case stems from Congress' passage of the Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children Act, which established penalties and restitution for sexual assault, domestic violence and child pornography. The law called for full restitution — but it did not specify who should pay what.

Amy, whose real name is not used in court papers, was raped and filmed at ages 8 and 9. It wasn't until she was 17 that she learned the sex acts had gone viral on the Internet. As a result, her lawyers argued, she could not finish college, has had trouble holding a job and will require weekly psychotherapy for the rest of her life.

Those problems carry what courts have estimated is a $3.4 million price tag for psychotherapy, lost wages and other costs. Since her images were discovered, federal authorities have identified more then 3,200 cases in which they were downloaded. They have won court orders for restitution totaling more than $1.7 million in 182 cases.

The case before the court involved Doyle Randall Paroline, who possessed just two images and was sentenced in 2009 to two years in prison. Lawyers for the victim argued that under the law Congress passed in 1994, every trafficker should be held liable for the maximum amount he can pay until the full $3.4 million has been paid. Government lawyers argued for a lesser "fair share" approach.

During oral arguments in January, the justices agreed that Amy deserved the money, but they didn't agree that Paroline should be asked to pay it all. "Some limiting principle has to come into play," Justice Stephen Breyer said.

In the end, Kennedy and Breyer were joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan in devising what Kennedy called a "common sense" approach.

"Restitution is therefore proper ... only to the extent the defendant's offense proximately caused a victim's losses," Kennedy said in a 26-page opinion.

Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said Paroline should pay nothing because it's impossible to approximate his share of the crime.

"The statute as written allows no recovery," Roberts said. "We ought to say so, and give Congress a chance to fix it."

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented for the opposite reason, saying that Amy should be able to collect the full amount from any defendant.

Picking up where she left off on Tuesday in a verbal tiff with Roberts over affirmative action, Sotomayor said his dissenting opinion "would result in no restitution in cases like this for the perverse reason that a child has been victimized by too many."

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Climate Change!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

U. S. Supreme Court Upholds Michigan's Ban On Use Of Affirmative Action In College Admissions Approved By Voters.

Michigan's ban on affirmative action upheld by Supreme Court
Source: CNN
Key argument in opinion concludes that lower court didn't have authority to set aside Michigan law
Michigan law bars publicly funded colleges from granting preferential treatment on the basis of race
The debate centers on whether affirmative action programs would be phased out in the future
It's now possible that other states could seek to act on affirmative action

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions, a key decision in an unfolding legal and political battle nationally over affirmative action.

The justices found 6-2 that a lower court did not have the authority to set aside the measure approved in a 2006 referendum supported by 58% of voters.
It bars publicly funded colleges from granting "preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's first Latina, reacted sharply to the decision.
"For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government," Sotomayor wrote.

But three justices in the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito. concluded that the lower court did not have the authority to set aside the law.
"This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it," Kennedy wrote.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas voted in the majority as part of concurring opinions.
Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, and Justice Elena Kagan took no part in the case.
The decision was the latest step in a legal and political battle over whether state colleges can use race and gender as a factor in choosing what students to admit.

The debate in recent years has centered around whether and when affirmative action programs -- while constitutionally permissible now -- would eventually have to be phased out as the goal of obtaining diversity is met.

Last year, the court affirmed the use of race at the University of Texas, but made it harder for institutions to justify such policies to achieve diversity.
In that dispute, a white student said the college's existing affirmative action policy violated her "equal protection" rights. Civil rights supporters of such programs claim Michigan's ban also has the same effect, and a federal appeals court agreed.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that while state universities could use race as a factor in choosing which students to admit, they could not make race the determining factor in deciding whether applicants are accepted.
Michigan has said minority enrollment at its flagship university, the University of Michigan, has not gone down since the measure was passed.
Civil rights groups dispute those figures and say other states have seen fewer African-American and Hispanic students attending highly competitive schools, especially in graduate level fields like law, medicine, and science.

The Michigan ban also prohibits the state from considering race and gender in public hiring and public contracting decisions. But the current high court case dealt only with the college admissions portion.

Efforts over decades to create a diverse classroom have been controversial.
The Brown v. Board of Education high court ruling in 1954 ended segregation of public schools, but sparked nationwide protests and disobedience by states that initially refused to integrate.

In the 1978 Bakke case, the justices ruled universities have a compelling state interest in promoting diversity, and that allows for the use of affirmative action. That issue involved a discrimination claim by a white man denied admission to law school.

The referendum issue has been around at least since 1996, when California voters endorsed Proposition 209, which bans use of race, sex, or ethnic background by state agencies in areas of education, and government hiring and contracts.

Six other states now have similar laws, and others may follow suit.
Roberts has made the issue a key part of the court's docket in recent years and it could serve as a major legacy of the current conservative majority.

Editor's note: you can read the opinion here.

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