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National Crime Victim Law Institute

In re The Morning Star Packing Co., — F.3d —, No. 13-71048, 2013 WL 1278086 (9th Cir. Mar. 29, 2013).

April 24, 2013





Corporate victims of defendant’s offense filed a petition for mandamus in response to the district court’s decision to deny restitution.  On review, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred in relying, in part, on a determination that assessing restitution would be an unduly complex and time-consuming exercise, based on its conclusions that defendant would be financially unable to satisfy any restitution award and the victims could pursue relief through civil actions.  The court explained that the victims sought restitution pursuant to the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A, which provides that courts “shall order restitution to each victim in the full amount of each victim’s losses,” without consideration of the “the economic circumstances of the defendant” and without consideration of the availability of recovery through a civil lawsuit.  The court further explained that only in narrow circumstances may a court decline to order restitution, where, based on facts in the record, “determining complex issues of fact” relating to restitution would complicate or prolong sentencing to such a degree that “the need to provide restitution to any victim is outweighed by the burden on the sentencing process.”  The court concluded, however, that to the extent the district court’s denial rested on the complicated nature of determining restitution, the record is unclear whether the district court conducted the required balancing test.  The court then granted the victims’ petition for a writ of mandamus, and the district court was ordered to vacate its previous judgment with respect to restitution and conduct further proceedings consistent with the appellate court’s opinion.