Monday, October 31, 2011

ASPCA v. Feld Entertainment, Inc

Oct 28: Feld Entertainment, Inc., owns the country's largest collection of endangered Asian elephants, some of whom travel and perform with its famed Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Appeals Court summarizes, "In this case, a former barn helper with Ringling Brothers and an organization dedicated to fighting exploitation of animals [i.e. American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)] allege that not all is well under the big top. Specifically, they claim that Feld's use of two techniques for controlling the elephants -- bullhooks and chains -- harms the animals in violation of the Endangered Species Act. But the district court never reached the merits of this claim because, following a lengthy bench trial, it found that plaintiffs had failed to establish Article III standing. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we agree."
    The Appeals Court indicates that the district court held a six-week bench trial, heard testimony from approximately thirty witnesses, reviewed hundreds of documents entered into the evidentiary record, and concluded that both Rider (Tom Rider, a barn helper) and API (another plaintiff, Animal Protection Institute) had failed to establish standing. The district court found that Rider was "essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness" whose trial testimony, and particularly his claim that he had developed an attachment to the elephants, lacked credibility. The district court also rejected API's two theories of standing.
    Following an exhaustive analysis of standing issues, the Appeals Court indicates, "Because Rider has failed to show that the district court applied an erroneous legal standard, we are left to review the district court's fact-findings and credibility determination for clear error. . . we see no basis for finding clear error." The Appeals Court also rejects claims of "informational standing" [i.e. FEC v. Akins, 524 U.S. 11, 21 (1998)] and "Havens Standing [i.e. Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 379 (1982)] and ultimately concludes that, "API and Rider lack Article III standing to maintain this action. We therefore affirm."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Wildlife, #CADC]

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