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April 28, 2009

"Is Crime Victims Rights Law Being Misused in Environmental Cases?"

09_ncvrw_icon The question in the title of this post is the headline of this new piece in The National Law Journal.  Here is how the effective piece begins:

A law that was designed to empower crime victims and give them a stronger voice in the justice system is increasingly being used as a weapon to punish companies accused of environmental crimes.

To the chagrin of corporate defense lawyers, the 2004 Crime Victims Rights Act is increasingly turning up in the government's environmental prosecutions, with victims fighting to be heard, especially at sentencing.

The issue has triggered robust legal debate. Defense lawyers argue that the five-year-old statute is being used for unintended purposes. They also contend it gives prosecutors an unfair advantage by letting them use victims to play on the courts' emotions at sentencing.

But victims' rights advocates counter that people hurt in catastrophes such as explosions or chemical spills deserve a seat at the table -- and a say in the punishment.

It is interesting and notable that this question is being asked right in the middle of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.  As detailed in this new press release from the White House, President Obama has called upon all Americans "to observe this week by participating in events that raise awareness of victims' rights and services and by volunteering to serve victims in their time of need."  I suppose that this NLJ article in some ways satisfies this call.

April 28, 2009 at 07:02 AM | Permalink

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