Friday, April 11, 2008

U.S. v. Vasquez-Ramos

Apr 10: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case Nos. 06-50553 & 06-50694. Defendants were charged for possessing feathers and talons of bald and golden eagles and other migratory birds without a permit in violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). They moved to dismiss the information claiming that prosecuting their possession of the feathers and talons violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The Appeals Court said, "In United States v. Antoine, 318 F.3d 919, 924 (9th Cir. 2003), under nearly identical facts, we held that there was no RFRA violation. Antoine remains binding law in our circuit, and we affirm the district court’s order denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss.

In its final argument the Ninth Circuit says, "Defendants contend that Antoine was decided on the incorrect premise that the demand for eagle parts exceeds a fixed supply. They argue that the government could remedy the problem of a demand that outstrips supply by increased diligence in salvage and recovery of eagle carcasses. Even if this were true, RFRA does not require the government to make the practice of religion easier. . . Because the government is not obligated to increase the supply of available carcasses, Defendants cannot be heard to complain that their rights under RFRA are violated by the government’s refusal to expand its collection and distribution practices.

Access the complete opinion (
click here).

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