Laying the Foundation for the Future
In a criminal case against CITGO Petroleum regarding violations of the Clean Air Act, the neighbors of the refinery, who suffered enormous harms, sought recognition as “victims” under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA). Victim status is the first step to gaining access to rights such as the rights to be heard at sentencing and to full and timely restitution! The trial court, however, initially denied the neighbors’ motion on the basis that it was untimely. With the help of NCVLI’s partners - Professor Paul Cassell of the S. J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah and Paula Pierce of the Texas Legal Services Center - the victims sought appellate review, arguing that under the CVRA they were legal victims and that the trial court should have heard their arguments. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the trial court and ordered it to hear the victims’ arguments. The trial court subsequently granted the motion for victim status and concluded that the neighbors are legal victims.
Sometimes the steps seem small, but step by step we are changing the justice system.
This is among the cases our Crime Victim Litigation Clinic students worked on this fall. We are grateful for their assistance!