Monday, June 30, 2008

U.S. v. Vasquez-Ramos

Jun 27: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case Nos. 06-50553, 06-50694. As explained by the Appeals Court, Mario Manuel Vasquez-Ramos and Luis Manuel Rodriguez-Martinez (Defendants) were charged by information 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."

Defendants claim to have received the feathers during Native American religious ceremonies and to have used them for religious worship. Defendants did not have and could not obtain permits to possess the parts and feathers because they are not members of federally-recognized Indian tribes.

The Appeals Court concluded, "In Antoine we held that individuals like Defendants who are not members of federally-recognized tribes did not have valid claims that their prosecutions under BGEPA violate RFRA. 318 F.3d at 924. Neither removal of bald eagles from the Endangered or Threatened Species List, the Supreme Court’s decision in O Centro Espirita, nor the government’s eagle recovery methods undermine this holding. The district court correctly denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss the information in reliance on the continued viability of Antoine."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).

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