A year and a half ago, as I noted at the time, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) “agreed to pay $9.3 million to settle racketeering and other charges arising from alleged litigation abuse in lawsuits beginning in 2000 over elephant welfare,” while “other defendants in the countersuit, including the Humane Society of the U.S., have declined to settle [with Feld Entertainment/Ringling Bros.] and remain in the litigation.” Now the Humane Society and other groups have agreed to pay more than $15 million, suggesting the ASCPA settlement was not a freak occurrence. [AP/Houston Chronicle, Charles Schelle/Bradenton Herald]
Although our system is (alas) set up to make it very difficult for defendants to recover legal fees from losing plaintiffs, it is not too surprising that this case would be an exception given a judge’s scathing findings against the plaintiffs’ conduct — not to mention the recent agreement by the ASPCA, one of the animal rights groups, to pay the Ringling owner $9.3 million. [ABA Journal]
According to a press release from Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey circus, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has agreed to pay $9.3 million to settle racketeering and other charges arising from alleged litigation abuse in lawsuits beginning in 2000 over elephant welfare. Feld says ASPCA and others paid a plaintiff and fact witness in the case whose testimony a judge described as not credible. It says it intends to continue suing other animal-welfare groups that it has named in connection with the episode, including the Humane Society of the United States, and Fund for Animals, as well as attorneys. [more on circus’s side of dispute; earlier here, here, here, here] More: John Steele, Legal Ethics Forum.
“After more than eight years of litigation, lawyers for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will appear in federal court this week to square off against a handful of animal welfare organizations that have filed suit against the circus alleging that it routinely violates federal law by abusing its elephants. The case is a major test for the reach of the Endangered Species Act, which for the first time is being used by private citizens to try to influence the care of animals already in captivity.” If the complainants, led by the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), succeed in the creative effort to reshape the Endangered Species Act into a federal animal welfare statute, lawsuits in other areas are likely to follow [Legal Times]
- Judge Kozinski, writing for Ninth Circuit panel, declares Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s harassment of whaling ships to fall under piracy law as covered by international treaty [Trial Insider, Julian Ku, Kevin Jon Heller, Eugene Kontorovich and more and yet more, SSCS’s black skull flag via Wikipedia]
- California Assemblyman Mike Gatto [D-Silver Lake] introduces AB 227, which would reform notorious Prop 65 by giving business 14 days to fix lack of warning before entitling lawyer to bounty [his blog, Dem caucus, Burbank Leader]
- Unintended, unsanitary consequences of plastic bag bans (Ramesh Ponnuru/ Bloomberg) And theft too? [Seattle Times]
- Writer who joined the circus for several days reports on Ringling Bros. elephant controversy: [Bill McMorris/Washington Free Beacon (quotes me), earlier]
- Study finds new CAFE fuel economy standards far less efficient than taxes in promoting conservation [Alex Tabarrok]
- Now Mark Bittman is being alarmist about cosmetics [ACSH, background]
- Overcriminalization looms large for Gulf Coast outdoor businesses, says TPPF’s Vikrant Reddy [FoxNews]
The head of the ASPCA writes to the New York Post about my op-ed piece. To recap the particular assertion to which he’s responding, if you want to support local shelter and rescue work, you’re much better off giving locally than you are writing a check to this national group and hoping a little trickles down through grants, special projects and the like.
Another reaction: Andy Vance, Farm Progress.
I’m in this morning’s New York Post with an opinion piece about the thoroughgoing debacle the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) got itself into with a decade-long lawsuit charging mistreatment of elephants at the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circuses (earlier). Last month ASPCA agreed to pay Ringling’s owner $9.3 million to settle charges of litigation abuse. Other defendants in the countersuit, including the Humane Society of the U.S., have declined to settle and remain in the litigation.
Later in the piece I draw a parallel to the recently dismissed Hudson Farm litigation in Maryland, in which a judge lambasted Waterkeeper Alliance for shoddy litigation conduct in a Clean Water Act suit. Is it worth rethinking the whole policy, which dates back to 1970, of broad tax deductibility for suing people in “cause litigation”? Related from Ted Frank at Point of Law.
P.S. The comments section on the Post piece is more substantive than most, and includes a statement from HSUS. (& response from ASPCA head)
- Does new Obama directive gut 1996 welfare reform law? [Mickey Kaus (“in 2008, Barack Obama didn’t dare suggest that he wanted to do what he has done today”), Bader]
- Ringling Bros. v. animal rights activists: court throws out champerty claim, allows racketeering claim to proceed [BLT]
- Iqbal, Twombly, and Lance Armstrong [DeadSpin, Howard Wasserman/Prawfs and more]
- Abuse claims: “Retain the statute of limitations” [New Jersey Law Journal editorial] Insurance costs squeeze NYC social services working with kids, elderly [NYDN]
- Court upholds sanctions vs. “staggering chutzpah” copyright lawyer Evan Stone [Paul Alan Levy, Eugene Volokh, earlier here and here]
- Court says board members of NYC apartment co-ops can be sued personally over alleged bias [Reuters]
- “FASB retreats from disastrous litigation disclosure requirement proposal” [Alison Frankel, Reuters via PoL, earlier]
- “MPAA: you can infringe copyright just by embedding a video” [Timothy Lee, Ars Technica]
- NYC: fee for court-appointed fire department race-bias monitor is rather steep [Reuters]
- Larry Schonbron on VW class action [Washington Times] Watch out, world: “U.S. class action lawyers look abroad” [Reuters] Deborah LaFetra, “Non-injury class actions don’t belong in federal court” [PLF]
- Will animal rights groups have to pay hefty legal bill after losing Ringling Bros. suit? [BLT]
- You shouldn’t need a lobbyist to build a house [Mead, Yglesias]
- “Astorino and Westchester Win Against Obama’s HUD” [Brennan, NRO] My two cents [City Journal] Why not abolish HUD? [Kaus]
- “Community organized breaking and entering,” Chicago style [Kevin Funnell; earlier, NYC]
- Pa. cash-for-kids judge allegedly came up with number of months for length of sentence based on how many birds could be seen out his office window [Legal Ethics Forum, with notes on ornithomancy or bird divination through history]; “The Pa. Judicial Scandal: A Closer Look at the Victims” [WSJ Law Blog on Philadelphia Inquirer report]; feds charge third county judge with fraud [Legal Intelligencer, more]; state high court overturns convictions of 6,500 kids who appeared before Ciavarella and Conahan [Greenfield]; judge orders new trial in Ciavarella’s eyebrow-raising $3.5 million defamation verdict against Citizens’ Voice newspaper in Wilkes-Barre; some web resources on scandal [Sullum, scroll to end]
- Says drinking was part of her job: “Stripper’s DUI Case Survives Club’s Latest Attack” [OnPoint News, earlier]
- Hundreds of lawyers rally to protest Sheriff Arpaio, DA Thomas [Coyote, Greenfield, ABA Journal, Mark Bennett interview with Phoenix attorney Jim Belanger, earlier here, here, and here]. In deposition, Arpaio says he hasn’t read book he co-authored in 2008 on immigration [Balko, Coyote] And as I mentioned a while back, Maricopa D.A. Andrew Thomas turns out to be the very same person as the Andrew Peyton Thomas toward whom I was uncharitable in this Reason piece quite a while back.
- Ted Roberts, of the famous sex-extortion case, begins serving five-year term [AP/Dallas News, KENS]
- New Hampshire lawsuit over leak of documents to mortgage gadfly site raises First Amendment issues [Volokh, earlier here and here]
- Did someone say paid witness? Judge tosses decade-old animal rights case vs. Ringling circus [Orlando Sentinel, Zincavage] Bonus: Ron Coleman, Likelihood of Confusion, on PETA and Michelle Obama;
- How’d foreclosure tax get into Connecticut budget when both parties claimed to oppose it? [Ct. News Junkie]
- Best-legal-blog picks of Ryan Perlin, who writes “Generation J.D.” for the Maryland Daily Record, include one that’s “humorous though sometimes disheartening”, while La Roxy at Daily Asker salutes a certain website as “Lurid, i.e. satisfying”. Thanks!