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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Skeens v. Alpha Natural Res., Inc., No. 5:12-cv-06854, 2013 WL 1966238 (S.D. W. Va. May 10, 2013) (slip copy).

June 21, 2013

Petitioners, acting on behalf of the estates of three miners who died in a coal mine explosion, commenced a lawsuit in the federal district court against respondents, the companies that own or operate the mine.  Petitioners’ amended complaint alleged, inter alia, that it was entitled to enforce the restitution provisions of the Non-Prosecution Agreement executed by the government and respondents.  The court granted respondents’ Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss petitioners’ amended complaint for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction.  In reaching its decision, the court rejected petitioners’ argument that the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3771, provided a basis for federal question jurisdiction in that case.  Although the court recognized that the CVRA expressly provides crime victims with certain rights pre-indictment—including, arguably “the right to be ‘reasonably protected from the accused’ and the right to be ‘treated with fairness and with respect’”—it found that the right to restitution only applies when a defendant has been convicted of an offense.  Because respondents were never prosecuted, the court concluded that petitioners failed to meet their burden of showing that federal question jurisdiction exists.  For this and other reasons, the court dismissed petitioners’ amended complaint without prejudice.