Argument analysis: Justices look for middle ground on criminal restitution

The issue before the Supreme Court in Lagos v. United States is the interpretation of a restitution statute applied in tens of thousands of criminal sentencing hearings each year. The Mandatory Victim Restitution Act requires courts to impose restitution for victims of a large swath of enumerated federal crimes. Under the MVRA, found at 18 U.S.C. § 3553A, the court must order a criminal defendant to “reimburse the victim for lost income and necessary child care, transportation, and other expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense.” The court spent part of yesterday morning grappling with how to construe that language. The petitioners argued for a narrow reading of the statute, while the federal government took an expansive approach. In the absence of any specific legislative history giving guidance as to how to interpret these words, the justices appeared to lean…

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