NCVLI and Partners Stand with Courtney Wild, Filing an Amicus Curiae Brief Seeking Review by the Entire 11th Circuit
On May 12, 2020, the National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) filed as Amicus Curiae (“friend of the court”) in support of Courtney Wild’s Petition for Rehearing En Banc. For more than ten years, Courtney Wild, a survivor, has challenged the non-prosecution plea that essentially gave Jeffrey Epstein and his co-conspirators immunity for his abuse of more than 30 minor victims, including Wild. She has argued that in reaching the agreement, the United States Attorney violated her rights under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) – 18 USC § 3771; specifically her rights to confer and to be treated with fairness. Over the course of the litigation the federal district court agreed that Wild’s rights were violated by the government’s actions; as of last year the only remaining issue was what remedy to afford to the victims. Then in summer 2019 Epstein died. Despite the fact that the litigation was between Wild and the government the district court dismissed the case as moot. Wild sought review of that narrow issue and NCVLI joined that fight, filing an amicus curiae brief.
Despite the narrowness of the issue presented to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, last month in a sweeping decision a panel of that court, in a 2-1 split ruling, denied Wild’s petition for review. The denial was not because the issue was moot but instead the court determined that crime victims’ CVRA rights do not attach pre-charging. The Court ruled this way despite years of reliance on the district court’s ruling to the contrary in 2011 and despite recognizing that the government’s treatment of the victims is a “tale of national disgrace.”
To preserve the power of the CVRA, to fight for justice not just for Epstein’s victims but for all victims nationally, and to not allow the court to contribute to the “national disgrace,” NCVLI once again filed as Amicus Curiae. This time in support for Wild’s petition for rehearing en banc (meaning by the full 11th Circuit).
The case involves the fundamental victims’ rights issues of whether the rights to confer with the government and to be treated with fairness under the CVRA can attach pre-charge. In its brief NCVLI points out that the CVRA’s plain language makes clear that it can attach pre-charging, a reading that aligns with Congress’ intent to “correct, not continue, the legacy of poor treatment of crime victims in the criminal process.” NCVLI argues that because the panel decision is in contradiction to both plain language and clear legislative intent of the CVRA—and splits from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the same issue—the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals should rehear the case en banc.
NCVLI is joined as co-amici by seven nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting victims’ legal rights: Arizona Voice for Crime Victims Inc. (AVCV); The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE); Legal Momentum; National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC); Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center (OCVJC); and the Women’s Law Project (WLP).