Paul G. Cassell

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Paul G. Cassell
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Utah
In office
May 15, 2002 – November 5, 2007
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byDavid Sam
Succeeded byClark Waddoups
Personal details
Born (1959-06-05) June 5, 1959 (age 64)[1]
Orange, California
EducationStanford University (BA)
Stanford Law School (JD)

Paul George Cassell (born June 5, 1959) is a former United States district judge of the United States District Court for the District of Utah, who is currently the Ronald N. Boyce Presidential Professor of Criminal Law and University Distinguished Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. He is best known as an expert in, and proponent of, victims' rights.


Born in Orange, California in 1959, Cassell received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University in 1981.[2] He later received a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School in 1984 and served as President of the Stanford Law Review. He was also a law clerk for Antonin Scalia, then a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, from 1984 to 1985. He was a law clerk for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger from 1985 to 1986. He was then an associate deputy attorney general in the United States Department of Justice from 1986 to 1988, and an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia from 1988 to 1991. He was a professor of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah from 1992 to 2002 and since 2007.

District court service[edit]

On September 4, 2001, Cassell was nominated by President George W. Bush to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Utah vacated by David Sam.[3] Cassell was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 13, 2002,[4] and received his commission on May 15, 2002. While serving as a judge, Cassell wrote several opinions that received widespread attention, including the first detailed district court opinion[5] to declare the federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional and a lengthy opinion decrying[6] a fifty-five year mandatory minimum prison sentence he was compelled to impose for a low-level drug dealer, Weldon Angelos. Cassell later wrote a letter to President Obama[7] requesting a sentence commutation, and thereafter prosecutors agreed to release Angelos. In December 2020, President Trump gave Angelos a full pardon, citing Cassell's opinion. In 2005, Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Cassell to serve as the Chair of the federal Judicial Conference's Committee on Criminal Law. On November 5, 2007, Cassell resigned his judicial position to return to teaching at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

Advocacy for the rights of crime victims[edit]

Cassell has been a leading spokesperson for protecting the rights of crime victims during the criminal justice process. Cassell was involved in supporting Utah's Crime Victims' Rights Amendment,[8] which was passed in 1994. In 1996, Cassell represented victims and surviving family members of the Oklahoma City bombing[9] in efforts to obtain access to court proceedings. In 2008, Cassell unsuccessfully appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit,[10] seeking crime victims' rights for Sue and Ken Antrobus, whose daughter was murdered in a massacre at the Trolley Square shopping center in Salt Lake City. The Tenth Circuit said that the issue was a "difficult" one, with one judge dissenting. Also in 2008, Cassell obtained a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit[11] that the rights of victims of 2005 BP oil refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas, were violated when prosecutors negotiated a plea bargain. In 2012, Cassell successfully appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,[12] obtaining a ruling that lead to a district court decision that affected community members from pollution discharges by CITGO were "victims" under the Crime Victims' Rights Act. In 2014, Cassell argued on behalf of a child pornography victim[13] ("Amy") before the United States Supreme Court, arguing that she should receive extensive restitution. In 2018, Cassell filed a petition on behalf of four "Jane Does"[14] urging the Utah Supreme Court to appoint special prosecutors to pursue four rape cases. Cassell has testified before congressional committees[15] several times, supporting an amendment to the United States Constitution protecting crime victims' rights. Recently, Cassell has advocated[16] on behalf of Marsy's Laws in various states. Cassell is also a co-author of a law school casebook on crime victims' rights, Victims In Criminal Procedure.[17]

Cassell is a proponent of capital punishment[18] and has litigated for a victim's family[19] in a death penalty case.

Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2 v. United States[edit]

Cassell was part of the legal team in a lawsuit against the United States by several alleged victims of registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, arguing that the government illegally concealed its non-prosecution agreement with Epstein from the victims in violation of their rights under the Crime Victims' Rights Act.

A December 30, 2014 filing in a federal civil suit in Florida against the United States for violations of the Crime Victims' Rights Act alleged that the United States, in giving Epstein a plea bargain in 2008, violated his victims' rights under the Crime Victims' Rights Act. The filing accused Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer who represented Epstein in his 2008 plea deal, of sexually abusing a minor provided by Epstein. The United Kingdom's Prince Andrew is also alleged to have had sex with underage girls provided by Epstein. Both have denied the charges.[20][21][22] Dershowitz threatened disbarment proceedings against Cassell and another lawyer on the alleged victim's legal team, challenging their filing on behalf of the victim.[23] Cassell countered: "We carefully investigate all of the allegations in our pleadings before presenting them. We have also tried to depose Mr. Dershowitz on these subjects, although he has avoided those deposition requests."[24] Cassell and another lawyer filed a defamation lawsuit, and the case ultimately settled on confidential terms.[25]

Ultimately, following years of litigation, the Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2 lawsuit lead to a district court ruling in February 2019 that the federal prosecutors had violated the victims' rights[26] in concealing the Epstein plea deal from the victims. But then in September 2019, the district court dismissed the lawsuit[27] as moot in the wake of Epstein's apparent suicide. Cassell and co-counsel Brad Edwards appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which in April 2020 handed down a split decision,[28] spanning 120 pages, rejecting the appeal on the grounds that the crime victims never had any rights under the Crime Victims' Rights Act because prosecutors had never filed federal charges against Epstein. Cassell and Edwards filed a petition for rehearing en banc, which the Eleventh Circuit granted[29] in August 2020. In April 2021, the Eleventh Circuit en banc ruled 8-5 that the Crime Victims Rights Act does not extend rights to victims in federal cases before charges are formally filed. The Supreme Court later denied review in the case.

United States v. Boeing[edit]

Cassell has led a legal challenge to the deferred prosecution agreement between Justice Department and Boeing concerning the crashes of two 737 MAX aircraft. In December 2021, Cassell filed a motion for fifteen families who had family members killed in the Lion Air and Ethiopian airlines crashes. Cassell argued that the Justice Department had violated the Crime Victims Rights Act by failing to confer with the victims' families.[30]

The Justice Department responded to the motion by arguing that the families did not represent "crime victims" under Act because the crime covered by the deferred prosecution agreement was Boeing lying to the Federal Aviation Administration; only the FAA was a victim.[31]

On October 22, 2022, the judge handling the case agreed with Cassell and granted the motion. The judge concluded that the Boeing's crime of lying to the FAA had directly caused the two crashes and that the families thus represented "victims" of a crime.[32]

But on February 10, 2023, the judge ruled that even though the families’ rights had been violated by the Justice Department secretly negotiating the deal, he could not award any remedy to the family[33]

Cassell appealed this ruling to the Fifth Circuit, which held oral argument on the appeal on July 25, 2023.[34]

On December 15, 2023, the Fifth Circuit overturned the district court’s ruling that it could not award any remedy to enforce the CVRA, but held that any final decision on the proper remedy was “premature” until the Justice Department moved to dismiss charges under the CVRA.[35] A Justice Department decision on whether to move to dismiss the pending charge against Boeing under the deferred prosecution agreement is expected on around July 7, 2024.[36]

Views on law enforcement[edit]

Cassell has argued that state exclusionary rules, including the rule implied in the Utah Constitution, unfairly harm victims of crime.[37] In 2017, Justice Lee of the Utah Supreme Court agreed with this view, citing Cassell, while the remaining justices did not reach the issue.[38]

Cassell has recently defended pro-active law enforcement investigation techniques, arguing that the 2016 Chicago homicide spike harmed many victims and was attributable to an "ACLU effect" restricting stop-and-frisk by Chicago police officers.[39] While the argument has been disputed, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited it as a well-founded analysis.[40][41]

In 2020, Cassell argued that the "Minneapolis Effect" was responsible for the homicide and shooting spike that occurred beginning in the summer of 2020.[42] His research paper contended that, following the murder of George Floyd during an arrest by a Minneapolis police officer, the ensuing anti-police protests caused law enforcement to reduce proactive policing, resulting in an increase in firearms assaults and homicides.

Cassell has also questioned the frequency with which innocent persons have been wrongfully convicted for crimes they did not commit, calling for close scrutiny of cases involving especially vulnerable defendants rather than a general approach to the issue.[43]

Cassell has also successfully served as a defense attorney in several cases where police officers were charged with crimes.[44]

Challenges to the Miranda decision[edit]

Cassell has been a leading critic of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona. In 2000, the Supreme Court invited Cassell to argue in defense of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had held that a federal statute[45] had superseded the requirements of the decision. A majority of the Court ultimately rejected Cassell's argument, with Justices Scalia and Thomas dissenting to endorse the position. Cassell has published a detailed empirical analysis[46] concerning the harmful effects of the Miranda decision, including a lengthy 2017 co-authored law review article containing regression analysis linking declining crime clearance rates after the Miranda decision to the restrictions imposed on police.


  • Debating the Death Penalty[47]
  • Victims in Criminal Procedure (4th edition)[17]


  • In Defense of Victim Impact Statements, Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 6, No. 611, 2009.[48]
  • Barbarians at the Gates? A Reply to the Critics of the Victims' Rights Amendment], Utah Law Review, 1999.[49]
  • The Victims' Rights Amendment: A Sympathetic, Clause-by-Clause Analysis[50]
  • Freeing the Guilty Without Protecting the Innocent: Some Skeptical Observations on Proposed New "Innocence" Procedures by Paul G. Cassell, Dec. 2011, Ronald N. Boyce Presidential Professor of Criminal Law, S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah.[51]
  • The Guilty and the 'Innocent': An Examination of Alleged Cases of Wrongful Conviction from False Confessions. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 22, Spring 1999.[43]
  • What Caused the 2016 Chicago Homicide Spike? An Empirical Examination of the "ACLU Effect" and the Role of Stop and Frisks in Preventing Gun Violence. 2018 University of Illinois Law Review, forthcoming.[39]
  • Still Handcuffing the Cops? A Review of Fifty Years of Empirical Evidence of Miranda's Harmful Effects on Law Enforcement. 97 Bost. U.L. Rev. 685 (2017).[46]
  • Miranda's Social Costs: An Empirical Reassessment. Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 90, No. 2, 1996.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 107-2 Hearings: Confirmation Hearings on Federal Appointments, S. Hrg. 107-584, Pt. 3, January 24, February 26, March 19, April 11, and April 25, 2002
  2. ^ "Cassell, Paul G. - Federal Judicial Center".
  3. ^ David G. Savage (September 29, 2007). "Judges seek leeway in prison sentences". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 4, 2015. "The worst aspect is the utter irrationality of the system," said U.S. District Judge Paul G. Cassell from Utah, an appointee of President Bush and former law clerk to Antonin Scalia before Scalia joined the Supreme Court.
  4. ^ "Biography: Paul G. Cassell". Deseret News. July 11, 2004. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  5. ^ Liptak, Adam (July 1, 2004). "U.S. Judge Overturns Guidelines For Sentences". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "United States v. Angelos, 345 F. Supp. 2d 1227 –". CourtListener.
  7. ^ Horwitz, Sari. "Former federal judge to President Obama: Free the man I sentenced to 55 years in prison" – via
  8. ^ Cassell, Paul (March 1, 1994). "Balancing the Scales of Justice: The Case for and the Effects of Utah's Victims' Rights Amendment". Utah Law Review. 1994 (4): 1373. Retrieved December 9, 2022.
  9. ^ Lepore, Jill (14 May 2018). "The Rise of the Victims'-Rights Movement". The New Yorker.
  10. ^ "FindLaw's United States Tenth Circuit case and opinions". Findlaw.
  11. ^ Flood, Mary; Chronicle, Copyright 2008 Houston (May 8, 2008). "Court: Plea deal violated rights of BP blast victims". Houston Chronicle.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "United States v. Citgo Petroleum Corp. | 893 F.Supp.2d 848 | S.D. Tex. | Judgment | Law | CaseMine".
  13. ^ "Utah law professor to make case for child-porn victims". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  14. ^ Paul, Deanna. "Utah refused to prosecute four sexual assault cases, so the alleged victims set out to do it themselves" – via
  15. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-09-24. Retrieved 2018-09-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ Cassell, Paul G. (September 3, 2017). "Crime Victims' Rights". SSRN 3024143.
  17. ^ a b Victims in Criminal Procedure, Fourth Edition (9781531009168). Authors: Douglas E. Beloof, Paul G. Cassell, Meg Garvin, Steven J. Twist. Carolina Academic Press – via
  18. ^ Cassell, Paul G.; Bedau, Hugo A. "Debating the Death Penalty". Oxford University Press.
  19. ^ Cassell, Paul G.; Ho, Allyson N.; Nowicki, Daniel; Chen, Daniel (23 August 2018). "Bucklew v. Precythe: Brief of Arizona Voice for Crime Victims, Inc., and Melissa Sanders as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents". SSRN 3237782.
  20. ^ "Woman who sued convicted billionaire over sex abuse levels claims at his friends". Politico. 31 December 2014.
  21. ^ Daniel Woodruff (January 3, 2015). "Utah attorney involved in lawsuit claiming sex abuse by Prince Andrew". KUTV. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  22. ^ Erin Fuchs (January 5, 2015). "How A Famous Harvard Professor Got Caught Up In A Financier's Sex Abuse Scandal". Business Insider. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  23. ^ Emma G. Fitzsimmons (January 3, 2015). "Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz Are Mentioned in Suit Alleging Sex With Minor". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  24. ^ Pat Reavy (January 5, 2015). "Dershowitz denies sex allegation, calls for U. professor to be disbarred". KSL. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  25. ^ Lat, David (8 April 2016). "Settlement Reached In Litigation Between Alan Dershowitz, Paul Cassell, And Bradley Edwards".
  26. ^ Pierson, Brendan (February 22, 2019). "Prosecutors violated Victims Rights Act in deal for Florida financier: judge". Reuters – via
  27. ^ Mazzei, Patricia; Baker, Mike (September 16, 2019). "Florida Judge Denies Bid by Epstein Victims to Nullify Non-Prosecution Deal". The New York Times.
  28. ^ United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit (April 14, 2020). "In re: Courtney Wild" (PDF). D.C. Docket No. 9:08-cv-80736-KAM. Retrieved December 9, 2022.
  29. ^ Zapotosky, Matt. "Appeals court will reconsider whether Jeffrey Epstein's plea deal was legal" – via
  30. ^ Kulish, Nicholas (October 21, 2022). "Families of Boeing Crash Victims Can Challenge U.S. Settlement, Judge Rules". New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2022.
  31. ^ Schaper, David (February 11, 2022). "The DOJ says the families of those killed in 2 Boeing crashes are not crime victims". NPR. Retrieved December 9, 2022.
  32. ^ Kulish, Nicholas (October 21, 2022). "Families of Boeing Crash Victims Can Challenge U.S. Settlement, Judge Rules". New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2022.
  33. ^ Tokar, Dylan; Tangel, Andrew (10 February 2023). "Judge Denies Boeing 737 MAX Families' Request to Reject DOJ Deal". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Co. Retrieved August 2, 2023.
  34. ^ Mokhiber, Russell (July 28, 2023). "Boeing Criminal Case Epitomizes Biden Double Standard of Justice". Corporate Crime Reporter. Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  35. ^ "In Re: Ryan" (PDF). U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Retrieved 15 March 2024.
  36. ^ "United States v. The Boeing Company". U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved 15 March 2024.
  37. ^ Cassell, Paul (March 1, 1993). "The Mysterious Creation Of Search and Seizure Exclusionary Rules Under State Constitutions: The Utah Example". Utah Law Review. 1993 (4): 751. Retrieved December 9, 2022.
  38. ^ "State v. Rowan". Justia Law.
  39. ^ a b Cassell, Paul G.; Fowles, Richard (March 21, 2018). "What Caused the 2016 Chicago Homicide Spike? An Empirical Examination of the 'ACLU Effect' and the Role of Stop and Frisks in Preventing Gun Violence". SSRN 3145287.
  40. ^ "Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks to the Gatlinburg Law Enforcement Training Conference". May 8, 2018.
  41. ^ Gorner, Jeremy (26 March 2018). "Study blames 'ACLU effect' for spike in Chicago's violence in 2016, but experts differ".
  42. ^ Cassell, Paul G. (10 September 2020). "Explaining the Recent Homicide Spikes in U.S. Cities: The 'Minneapolis Effect' and the Decline in Proactive Policing". SSRN 3690473.
  43. ^ a b Cassell, Paul G. (19 May 1999). "The Guilty and the 'Innocent': An Examination of Alleged Cases of Wrongful Conviction from False Confessions". SSRN 161879.
  44. ^ "Judge dismisses manslaughter case against former Utah cop". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  45. ^ Cassell, Paul G. (November 2, 1999). "The Statute that Time Forgot: 18 U.S.C. ? 3501 and the Overhauling of Miranda". SSRN 188028.
  46. ^ a b Cassell, Paul G.; Fowles, Richard (September 3, 2017). "Still Handcuffing the Cops? A Review of Fifty Years of Empirical Evidence of Miranda's Harmful Effects on Law Enforcement". SSRN 3000098.
  47. ^ "Debating the Death Penalty - Hugo Adam Bedau; Paul G. Cassell - Oxford University Press".
  48. ^ Paul G., Cassell (4 September 2009). "In Defense of Victim Impact Statements". SSRN 1468649.
  49. ^ Cassell, Paul G. (September 3, 1999). "Barbarians at the Gates? A Reply to the Critics of the Victims' Rights Amendment". SSRN 174649.
  50. ^ Cassell, Paul G. (26 November 2012). "The Victims' Rights Amendment: A Sympathetic, Clause-by-Clause Analysis". SSRN 2181050.
  51. ^ Cassell, Paul (2011–2012). "Freeing the Guilty Without Protecting the Innocent: Some Skeptical Observations on Proposed New "Innocence" Procedures". New York Law School Law Review. 56 (3): 1064. Retrieved December 9, 2022.
  52. ^ Cassell, Paul G. (18 August 2011). "Miranda's Social Costs: An Empirical Reassessment". SSRN 1912114.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Utah
Succeeded by