Allowing Complaining Witness to Testify With Support Dog Leads to Reversal of Criminal Conviction

by John M. Simpson

In People v. Shorter, ___ N.W. 2d ___, 2018 WL 2746384 (Mich. App. June 7, 2018), the Court of Appeals of Michigan reversed a conviction for third degree criminal sexual conduct and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct because the trial court erred by granting the prosecution’s motion to allow the complaining witness to testify while accompanied by a support dog and its handler.  The matter was remanded for a new trial.  Continue reading Allowing Complaining Witness to Testify With Support Dog Leads to Reversal of Criminal Conviction

Ninth Circuit Recently Slams PETA Over Monkey Selfie Lawsuit

Ninth Circuit Recently Slams PETA Over Monkey Selfie Lawsuit, Finding That PETA’s “Next Friend” Lawsuit Used Monkey as a “Pawn”

By: Michelle C. Pardo

As the old saying goes, “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”

Last year, animal activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), acting as a purported “next friend” of a Sulawesi crested macaque (named “Naruto”), brought a lawsuit in the Northern District of California against wildlife photographer David Slater and a self-publishing book company over a “selfie” that the macaque had taken when it grabbed wildlife photographer Slater’s camera.   PETA had alleged that the monkey, as author and owner of the photograph, had a claim for copyright infringement against defendants.  After finding that the monkey had constitutional standing, but no standing under the Copyright Act, the district court dismissed the case.  PETA appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit. Continue reading Ninth Circuit Recently Slams PETA Over Monkey Selfie Lawsuit

Court Affirms Duck Baiting Conviction

By John M. Simpson

In United States v. Obendorf, ___ F.3d ___, No. 16-30188 (9th Cir. July 9, 2018), a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the conviction of an Idaho man who had been charged with a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), 16 U.S.C. §§ 703-712, which, among other things, prohibits the baiting of  migratory birds to facilitate hunting them.  The indictment charged that the defendant, a farmer, had directed one of his corn fields to be harvested by strip-combining, in which alternating corn rows were left untouched, and such that excessive amounts of corn were left on the ground.  This was in apparent contrast to the defendant’s other corn fields that had been “neatly combined and fully harvested.”  Slip op. at 4. Continue reading Court Affirms Duck Baiting Conviction

9th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment of No Standing in Endangered Species Act Case

by  John M. Simpson

On June 28, 2018 a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a summary judgment determining that certain environmental organizations had no Article III standing to pursue claims under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) as to financing authorizations by the Export-Import Bank of the United States with respect to two liquid natural gas projects in Queensland, Australia near the Great Barrier Reef.  Center for Biological Diversity v. Export-Import Bank of the United States, ___ F.3d ___, No. 16-15946 (9th Cir. June 28, 2018).  The court found that plaintiffs failed to satisfy the redressability requirement under the “relaxed standard” for standing in “procedural rights” cases.  Slip op. at 14.  Continue reading 9th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment of No Standing in Endangered Species Act Case

New Jersey Appellate Division Affirms Dismissal of Animal Cruelty Qui Tam Action

By John M. Simpson

In Goldman v. Critter Control of New Jersey, ___ A.3d ___, No. A-1392-16T2, 2018 WL 2089803 (N.J. App. Div. May 7, 2018), the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, recently affirmed the dismissal of two lawsuits brought by the former chief law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals against defendants who, plaintiff alleged, had violated the New Jersey Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA), N.J.S.A. §§ 4:22-11.1 to 060.  The complaints sought to recover damages and civil penalties from the defendants “by way of qui tam.”  Id. at *1.  The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that plaintiff lacked standing to proceed with either lawsuit. Continue reading New Jersey Appellate Division Affirms Dismissal of Animal Cruelty Qui Tam Action

Grizzly Bear “Taking” Conviction Reversed by 9th Circuit

By John M. Simpson

On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the conviction of a Montana man who had been convicted of a criminal violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for shooting and killing a grizzly bear that was harassing the horses in a pasture behind the defendant’s rural home.  United States v. Charette, ___ F.3d ___, No. 17-30059 (9th Cir. June 26, 2018).  The government had charged the defendant with one count of “taking” a threatened species in violation of the ESA.  The defendant was convicted in a bench trial before a magistrate judge, and the conviction was affirmed by the district court. Continue reading Grizzly Bear “Taking” Conviction Reversed by 9th Circuit

Court Denies Habeas Petition Filed on Behalf of Elephants

By John M. Simpson

A Connecticut Superior Court Judge recently issued an opinion further elaborating on his prior decision to deny a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed on behalf of three elephants (two Asian and one African) owned by a zoo in Connecticut.  Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. ex rel. Beulah, Minnie and Karen v. R.W. Commerford & Sons, Inc., No. LLICV175009822S, 2018 WL 3014069 (Conn. Super Ct. May 23, 2018).  The action had been brought on behalf of the elephants “Beulah,” “Minnie” and “Karen” by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NHRP), arguing that the animals possessed emotional, social and intellectual attributes sufficient for common law personhood and for the common law right to the bodily liberty protected by the writ.  The May 23 decision expanded upon the reasons why the court previously had found the habeas petition to be “wholly frivolous on its face.” Continue reading Court Denies Habeas Petition Filed on Behalf of Elephants

Trump Administration Announces Plan to Consolidate Wildlife Agencies

The Trump Administration recently announced a proposal to merge the operations of the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) into the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Historically, NMFS has been charged with administration of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), focusing primarily upon marine mammals, while FWS has administered the Endangered Species Act (ESA) primarily with respect to species located upon land or inland fisheries. The reorganization initiative is part of a larger plan entitled Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendation, containing proposals affecting several federal agencies. Continue reading Trump Administration Announces Plan to Consolidate Wildlife Agencies

Fish and Wildlife Service Issues Guidance on Incidental Take Permits

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), the agency within the Department of Interior with primary responsibility for the administration and enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), issued new guidance on April 26, 2018, addressing the triggering circumstances for an incidental take permit (ITP) under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. The guidance was issued in a Memorandum (Mem.) from the Principal Deputy Director to Regional Directors. Continue reading Fish and Wildlife Service Issues Guidance on Incidental Take Permits