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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Schultz v. United States, No. 08-17304, 2010 WL 431772 (9th Cir. Feb. 9, 2010)

February 09, 2010

A fraud victim, who had been awarded over $700,000 in restitution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), moved to intervene, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24, in a civil action involving the collection and distribution of defendant’s assets. The trial court denied the victim-creditor’s motion, and he appealed. In reviewing his appeal, the court found that the MVRA “clearly gives victims the right to self-help in collecting restitution ordered for their benefit,” but that the statute limits the mechanism by which a victim may enforce that right to filing an abstract judgment against defendant. The court recognized that such a remedy was not available to the victim because defendant had already satisfied his restitution obligation by assigning to the United States a judgment in his favor in a related matter. As the court stated, “[the victim] cannot collect a debt from a debtor who has already paid that debt, albeit not directly to [the victim] himself.” The court concluded: “The inutility of this remedy [under the MVRA] to [the victim], while unfortunate, is irrelevant to the statutory analysis. Because the remedy provided under the MVRA is exclusive, [the victim] may not use the provisions of Rule 24 to enlarge or modify his right to restitution by intervening in the California litigation.” As such, the court of appeals upheld the lower court’s denial of the victim’s motion to intervene.