Activist Case Involving Chicken Farm Fails in D.C. Circuit on Standing Grounds

On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed an action brought by Food & Water Watch against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) challenging the environmental assessment made in connection with the Farm Service Agency’s guarantee of loan to a Maryland chicken farmer.  Food & Water Watch v. U.S. Dep’t of Agriculture, ___ F.3d ___, No. 20-5100 (D.C. Cir. June 22, 2021).  Plaintiff had argued that the agency’s finding of no significant impact for the guarantee violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The district court found standing to sue but rejected the plaintiff’s challenge on its merits.  On appeal, however, the D.C. Circuit ruled that the plaintiff had no Article III standing. Continue reading “Activist Case Involving Chicken Farm Fails in D.C. Circuit on Standing Grounds”

D.C. District Court Rejects Challenge to BLM Wild Horse Removal Decisions

by John M. Simpson.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently rejected claims challenging actions by the U.S. Department of Interior, acting through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to remove wild horses from an area of federal land in Nevada known as the Caliente Complex. In 2008, BLM issued a resource management plan (RMP) for the area that, due to wild hors e overpopulation and the ecological effects that stemmed therefrom, effectively set an appropriate management level of wild horses as zero for the entire Complex.  BLM thereupon removed horses from the Complex, but due to overpopulation and ecological imbalance, BLM determined in 2018 that all wild horses be removed (2018 Gather Decision).  Plaintiffs challenged both actions as contrary to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WHBA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The court granted summary judgment for the federal defendants and dismissed all claims.   American Wild Horse Campaign v. Bernhardt, No. 18-1529 (BAH) (D.D.C. Feb. 13, 2020). Continue reading “D.C. District Court Rejects Challenge to BLM Wild Horse Removal Decisions”

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?”