Paul G. Cassell

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Paul George Cassell
Judge Paul Cassells from Utah.png
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
Paul George Cassell

1959 (age 59–60)
Orange, California
EducationStanford University (B.A.)
Stanford Law School (J.D.)

Paul George Cassell (born 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 1979.[1] 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.[2] Cassell was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 13, 2002,[3] 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 to declare the federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional and a lengthy opinion decrying 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 requesting a sentence commutation, and thereafter prosecutors agreed to release Angelos. 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.

Crime Victim Rights Advocacy[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, which was passed in 1994. In 1996, Cassell represented victims and surviving family members of the Oklahoma City bombing in efforts to obtain access to court proceedings. In 2008, Cassell unsuccessfully appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 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 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, 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 (“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” urging the Utah Supreme Court to appoint special prosecutors to pursue four rape cases. Cassell has testified before congressional committees several times, supporting an amendment to the United States Constitution protecting crime victims’ rights. Recently, Cassell has advocated 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.

Cassell is a proponent of capital punishment[4] and has litigated for a victim’s family in a death penalty case.

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

Cassell is part of the legal team in an ongoing lawsuit against the United States by several alleged victims of registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, 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.[5][6][7] Dershowitz threatened disbarment proceedings against Cassell and another lawyer on the alleged victim’s legal team, challenging their filing on behalf of the victim.[8] 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."[9] Cassell and another lawyer filed a defamation lawsuit, and the case ultimately settled on confidential terms. The Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2 lawsuit regarding crime victim's rights remains pending in Florida.

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. In 2017, Justice Lee of the Utah Supreme Court agreed with this view, citing Cassell, while the remaining Justices did not reach the issue.

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. While the argument has been disputed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cited it as a well-founded analysis.

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.

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

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 2002, 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 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 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.




  1. ^ "Cassell, Paul G. - Federal Judicial Center".
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Biography: Paul G. Cassell". Deseret News. July 11, 2004. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  4. ^ Cassell, Paul G.; Bedau, Hugo A. "Debating the Death Penalty". Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ "Woman who sued convicted billionaire over sex abuse levels claims at his friends".
  6. ^ Daniel Woodruff (January 3, 2015). "Utah attorney involved in lawsuit claiming sex abuse by Prince Andrew". KUTV. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Pat Reavy (January 5, 2015). "Dershowitz denies sex allegation, calls for U. professor to be disbarred". KSL. Retrieved January 6, 2015.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
David Sam
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Utah
Succeeded by
Clark Waddoups