Friday, August 31, 2012

Court Rejects Third-Party Appeal; No Implied Right to Victim Appeal Under MVRA

In U.S. v. Stoerr, No. 11-2787 (Aug. 28, 2012), Stoerr’s employer, Sevenson Environmental Services, appealed the restitution order in his case, arguing that because it had voluntarily repaid Stoerr’s victim, the restitution order should have been to Sevenson, instead of the victim. The Court dismissed the appeal, finding that Sevenson, as a non-party, lacked standing to appeal.

Stoerr solicited and accepted kickbacks in his work overseeing a Superfund cleanup, and he passed the cost of the kickbacks on to victim Tierra, a company not receiving kickbacks, and to the EPA. When Sevenson learned of this, it compensated Tierra, and both brought a civil action against Stoerr and sought restitution in this proceeding. The district court denied restitution, holding that Tierra was the victim, and that Sevenson could pursue the civil remedy. The government moved to dismiss Sevenson’s appeal.

Sevenson acknowledged the presumptive rule that, as a non-party, it could not appeal; however, it argued that it was aggrieved, and should be permitted to appeal in this circumstance. The Court joined all the other Circuits to consider the question (DC, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th) in holding that it would not permit a third party to disturb a defendant’s sentence. In so doing, it (1) held that the MVRA does not contain an implicit right to victim appeals (distinguishing the 6th Cir. case, Perry, which permitted a victim suit over a lien under the MVRA); and (2) noted that precedent on third-party appeals is generally in civil, not criminal, cases.

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