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December 19, 2008

Eleventh Circuit grants mandamus in CVRA case

The Eleventh Circuit issued late today an important CVRA ruling with a short opinion in In Re: Janice W. Stewart And Other Borrower-Crime Victims, No. 08-16753-G (11th Cir. Dec. 19, 2008) (available here).  Here is how the opinion starts:

The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (“CVRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3771, provides that victims of a federal crime may appear and be heard during some phases of the prosecution of the person charged with the crime. The CVRA requires the Government to “make [its] best efforts to see” that the court (in which the prosecution is pending) permits the victim to appear and be heard.  If the court refuses to allow the victim to appear, the victim may move the United States Court of Appeals for a writ of mandamus.

Several persons claiming to be victims of the crime charged in United States v. Coon, No. 08-CR-441-T-17MAP (M.D. Fla.), moved the magistrate judge – as he was entertaining, and conditionally accepting, the defendant Phillip Coon’s guilty plea pursuant to an information and a plea agreement – for leave to appear in the case and to be heard.  The magistrate judge refused to recognize the movants as victims, and denied their motion.  The district court subsequently adhered to the magistrate judge’s ruling. The movants (“petitioners”) now petition this court for a writ of mandamus.  We grant the writ.

UPDATE:  Paul Cassell, who helped represent the petitioners in this case, discusses the Eleventh Circuit's ruling in this post at The Volokh Conspiracy.  Commentors over there spotlight some reasonable concerns about broad application of the CVRA in economic crime settings.

December 19, 2008 at 05:47 PM | Permalink

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