Plaintiffs, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, visited the Cherokee Bear Zoo. Plaintiffs observed bear pits containing four bears, identified by signs as grizzly bears. The pits were compact and made entirely of concrete. Each pit had a small pool of water, but neither had any vegetation nor any shade. Plaintiffs observed the bears in listless form, pacing and begging for food. Patrons fed the bears apples and dry bread sold by the Zoo. Plaintiffs brought a citizen suit, alleging that the Zoo’s practice of keeping the bears in the described living conditions constituted a “tak[ing]” of and possession of a taken threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1538(a)(1). Plaintiffs’ argued that the Zoo’s conduct is a form of “harass[ment]” of, and “harm” to, its bears. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings in favor of Plaintiffs on the issues of standing and the bears’ status as protected but vacated the court’s ruling against Plaintiffs on the issue of whether the Zoo is committing an unlawful taking. To establish harassment, Plaintiffs must prove that the Zoo’s husbandry practices fall within 50 C.F.R. 17.3’s definition of harass and that those practices do not fall within the enumerated exclusion. The district court did not reach the first issue and improperly declined to ask whether the Zoo’s animal husbandry practices are “generally accepted.” View "Hill v. Coggins" on Justia Law
The Animal Welfare Act does not directly address license renewal but does expressly authorize the USDA to promulgate and implement its own renewal standards. PETA filed suit challenging the license renewal process for animal exhibitors promulgated by the USDA through which the USDA may renew such license despite a licensee's noncompliance with the Act. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the USDA's Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings. The court agreed with the Eleventh Circuit that the Act's licensing regulations embody a reasonable accommodation of the conflicting policy interests Congress has delegated to the USDA and were entitled to Chevron deference. View "PETA v. USDA" on Justia Law
United States v. Lawson; United States v. Hutto; United States v. Hutto; United States v. Peeler; United States v. Dyal; United States v. Collins, Jr.
Defendants were convicted by a jury of violating and conspiring to violate the animal fighting prohibition of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. 2156(a) (the animal fighting statute), resulting from their participation in "gamefowl derbies," otherwise known as "cockfighting." Defendants raised several challenges on appeal. Upon review of the parties' arguments, the court held that the animal fighting statute was a constitutional exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause; that the provision of different elements of the crime in jurisdictions permitting animal fighting did not violate defendants' equal protection rights; and that the district court did not err in conducting Scott Lawson's trial jointly with the trials of his co-defendants. The court held, however, that the juror's misconduct violated Lawson's right to a fair trial, and therefore vacated the convictions for violating the animal fighting statute. The court also vacated the conspiracy convictions with respect to those defendants for which the conspiracy related solely to the animal fighting activities. Further, the court rejected the challenges made by several defendants to the illegal gambling convictions, and affirmed the convictions relating to those offenses as well as the conspiracy convictions for which illegal gambling was one of the objects of the conspiracy alleged. View "United States v. Lawson; United States v. Hutto; United States v. Hutto; United States v. Peeler; United States v. Dyal; United States v. Collins, Jr." on Justia Law
United States v. Gibert; United States v. Benfield; United States v. Hoover; United States v. Grooms; United States v. Jeffcoat
Defendants were indicted for their roles in organizing, operating, and participating in "gamefowl derbies," otherwise known as "cockfighting." Defendants entered a conditional plea of guilty to the charge of conspiring to violate the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. 2156 (the animal fighting statute). At issue was whether Congress exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause in enacting a criminal prohibition against animal fighting. The court held that the animal fighting statute prohibits activities that substantially affected interstate commerce and thus, was a legitimate exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause. The court also held that the statute did not require the government to prove defendants' knowledge regarding the particular venture's nexus to interstate commerce. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions. View "United States v. Gibert; United States v. Benfield; United States v. Hoover; United States v. Grooms; United States v. Jeffcoat" on Justia Law