Chris Carr, Georgia attorney general Chris Carr, Georgia attorney general (Photo: David Alexander Barnes /AJC via AP)

Attorneys general from both political parties across the country have found a uniting issue: balancing the scales of justice for children who’ve been exploited by pornographers on the internet.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced Tuesday that he has joined a bipartisan group of 54 state and territorial attorneys general calling on congressional leaders to pass legislation supporting victims of child pornography.

“We are proud to work with our local, state and federal partners to stand up for and protect our children,” Carr said in a news release. “We are urging congressional leaders to support this important piece of legislation, as we believe it will help alleviate a substantial legal burden placed on victims of child pornography and help them obtain the justice that they so greatly deserve.”

The Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017 would make it easier for those affected by child pornography to obtain full restitution, Carr said in a news release. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Paroline v. United States held that, while victims of child pornography are entitled to restitution, any defendant they sue is only liable for the harm caused by that individual defendant’s possession of the images. This bill would clarify that victims be fully compensated for all the harms resulting from every perpetrator who contributed to their trauma.

A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate in 2015 but failed to pass the House of Representatives. The letter is directed to House leadership including Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

The letter started by reminding the House leaders of their failure to pass the bill in 2015.

“The need for this legislation stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Paroline v. United States, which held that although victims of child pornography are entitled to restitution, each defendant is statutorily liable only for the proximate injury his possession of the images caused. This decision was contrary to an amicus brief submitted by thirty-five state attorneys general urging the court to allow full restitution to victims of child pornography,” the letter said.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision puts an enormous burden on victims of child pornography,” the attorneys general continued. “In order to receive restitution, a victim must pursue every case in which a defendant was found to possess images of the victim. As the Supreme Court recognized, digital images of each child victim are trafficked worldwide, and there may be thousands of defendants found to possess each victim’s images. As a result, victims are only able to receive a small amount of restitution from each defendant and must pursue thousands of cases in order to receive full restitution. Preventing victims from collecting full restitution protects defendants, who are shielded from having to pay meaningful costs to those they have harmed.”

The attorneys general said the surge in child pornography on the internet has led to increased victimization and trafficking to meet the demand for new pictures and live video of sexual violence against increasingly younger children. The highest “value” images traded online are those which depict the youngest victims and the most horrific sex acts.

In December 2013, the FBI had more than 7,000 pending investigations involving child exploitation, including child pornography and sex trafficking, according to the letter.

“While nothing can undo the harm done to these victims by perpetrators who produce, share and view these images, Congress can act to make it easier for victims to receive meaningful restitution,” the attorneys general said.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington and Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah led the effort. All state attorneys general signed the letter, along with those from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.