D.C. Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Activist Group’s Case Against Fish & Wildlife Service

Affirming a district court decision that we reported on last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently found that the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) had no standing in a case claiming that  the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service should have utilized notice and comment procedures when it created its framework for making species status assessments under the Endangered Species Act.  Center for Biological Diversity v. Haaland, No. 20-5088 (D.C. Cir. May 25, 2021) (per curiam).  The appellate court agreed with the district court that CBD had shown no Article III “injury in fact.” Continue reading “D.C. Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Activist Group’s Case Against Fish & Wildlife Service”

Supreme Court Addresses When a “Draft Biological Opinion” Really is a “Draft” Under the FOIA

Today, in her first published opinion on the Supreme Court, Justice Barrett delivered the majority opinion in U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv. v. Sierra Club, Inc., No. 19-547 (U.S. Mar. 4, 2021), a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case involving whether draft biological opinions of the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service were exempt from public disclosure.  The Court ruled that they were, and overturned a contrary determination by the Ninth Circuit. Continue reading “Supreme Court Addresses When a “Draft Biological Opinion” Really is a “Draft” Under the FOIA”

Federal Court Enjoins California Ban on Sale of Alligator and Crocodile Parts

by John M. Simpson.

On Tuesday, a federal district court in California enjoined the enforcement of Cal. Penal Code § 653o which criminalizes the sale and possession for sale of alligator and crocodile parts in California.  April in Paris v. Becerra, No. 2:19-cv-02471-KJM-CKD, consolidated with Louisiana Wildlife Fisheries Comm’n v. Becerra, No. 2:19-cv-02488-KJM-CKD (E.D. Cal. Oct. 13, 2020).  Plaintiffs, business interests importing alligator and crocodile parts into California, brought the action against the California Attorney General and the Director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.  The law had been slated to take effect on January 1, 2020, but had been suspended pursuant to a stipulated retraining order pending the court’s decision on the preliminary injunction motion. Continue reading “Federal Court Enjoins California Ban on Sale of Alligator and Crocodile Parts”

Animal Rights Challenge to FWS Sport Trophy Decision Fails in D.C. Circuit

by John M. Simpson.

In Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, ___ F.3d ___, No. 19-5152 (D.C. Cir. June 16, 2020), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s rejection of a challenge by animal rights groups to a decision by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to withdraw blanket findings as to whether the importation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of certain sport trophies of “threatened” species taken in other countries would enhance the survival and not be detrimental to the survival of those species. Continue reading “Animal Rights Challenge to FWS Sport Trophy Decision Fails in D.C. Circuit”

D.C. District Court Dismisses Endangered Species Act Case for Lack of Article III Standing

by John M. Simpson.

A U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia recently dismissed a lawsuit brought under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the federal Administrative Procedure Act by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) against the Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).  Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, No. 18-2576 (RC) (D.D.C. Feb. 12, 2020).  CBD asserted that FWS’s guidelines for species-specific species status assessments (SSA’s) were issued without the requisite notice and comment.  The guidelines for species-specific SSA’s provide an analytical framework for the agency’s listing and critical habitat decisions under the ESA.  The court dismissed the case for lack of Article III standing. Continue reading “D.C. District Court Dismisses Endangered Species Act Case for Lack of Article III Standing”

Buttonwood Park Zoo Defeats Endangered Species Act Lawsuit

by Michelle C. Pardo

We previously blogged about an Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit which pitted an animal rights activist against the Buttonwood Park Zoo (owned and operated by the City of New Bedford, Massachusetts). The zoo’s two elephants, Emily and Ruth, approximately 55 and 61 years old, respectively, have spent the greater part of their lives at Buttonwood Park. In 2017, longtime zoo patron Joyce Rowley, an animal rights activist who runs Friends of Ruth & Emily, an organization “dedicated to retiring Asian elephants Ruth and Emily from Buttonwood Park Zoo,” brought a lawsuit in Massachusetts federal court against the zoo. Rowley claimed that the zoo was committing an illegal “take” of the elephants when it failed to provide them with, among other things, adequate veterinary care and socialization, including a failure to protect one of the elephants from its more aggressive elephant companion. Her requested relief included confiscation of the elephants and relocating them to an elephant “sanctuary.” Continue reading “Buttonwood Park Zoo Defeats Endangered Species Act Lawsuit”

The Case of the Austin Blind Salamander

By Michelle Pardo

Question: What do you get when you cross an Austin Blind salamander, a Barton Springs salamander, a golden-cheeked warbler, and a Texas highway project?

Answer: An Endangered Species lawsuit.

On February 28, 2019, environmental advocacy group Save Our Springs (SOS) and frequent litigator Center for Biological Diversity (Center) sent a 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue letter to the Texas Department of Transportation (TexDOT), the US Department of Interior and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit pursuant to the  Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The ESA is a federal law that prohibits the “taking” of threatened and endangered species, 16 USC § 1538; “take” has means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, would, kill, trap, capture or collect (or attempt such conduct).

The environmental groups claim that the construction of the MoPac Intersections Project, a federally-funded highway project for which the TexDOT is the lead agency, risks an illegal “take” of three endangered species. According to the city of Austin’s official government website, the Austin Blind Salamander gets its name because it does not have “image-forming eyes”, a result of living in its dark, underground habitat in the waters of Barton Springs. The aptly-named Barton Springs salamander shares this same habitat. The other critter named in the potential lawsuit – the golden-cheeked warbler – was one of the eight endangered species protected by the first major urban habitat plan in the country. The groups claim that tree removal due to construction impacts the warbler’s nesting and foraging behaviors. Continue reading “The Case of the Austin Blind Salamander”

PETA Jumps the Shark with Steve Irwin Tweets

by John M. Simpson.

As recently reported by the BBC,  and by other media outlets, PETA went off the rails on Friday by disparaging the name of Steve Irwin on the occasion of what would have been his 57th birthday.  Irwin was a wildlife conservationist, enthusiast and television performer well known for his interesting and often breath-taking interactions with wildlife, crocodiles in particular.  Irwin died in 2006 after a fatal interaction with a stingray during a wildlife program shoot. Continue reading “PETA Jumps the Shark with Steve Irwin Tweets”

The Pitfalls of Serving as Activist Attorney and Client: Should We Give A Hoot?

by Michelle C. Pardo

You may have heard the well-known proverb, “a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client.” It stands for the concept that while individuals in our country are free to represent him or herself in a criminal or civil trial – acting pro se – many caution that this is not the wisest course.

The issue is even more precarious when an attorney attempts to participate as a fact witness in a case he or she has brought. Rule 3.7 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (a rule substantially echoed in many jurisdictions) states that “[a] lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness.” This rule applies absent certain narrow circumstances, such as the testimony relates to an uncontested issue or the nature and value of legal services. The reason for the rule is straightforward: combining roles of advocate and witness can prejudice the court and the opposing party and create a conflict of interest between lawyer and client.

Friends of Animals, an animal rights organization headquartered in Connecticut, recently was called out by a federal judge in Oregon when its in-house counsel, Michael Harris, tried to serve as a declarant in support of Friends of Animals’ summary judgment motion. The declaration was intended to establish the requisite “injury in fact” for Friends of Animals’ members to establish a critical element of “standing” – the threshold inquiry that permits a litigant to have an injury remedied by the federal courts.  Continue reading “The Pitfalls of Serving as Activist Attorney and Client: Should We Give A Hoot?”