Cases

  • The Government charged Brigham Oil & Gas, L.P.with “taking” (killing) two migratory birds found dead near one of its reserve pits. But, the Court found that the use of reserve pits in commercial oil development is legal, commercially-useful activity that stands outside the reach of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Therefore, the Court held that the oil and gas companies' use of reserve pits did not violate Migratory Bird Treaty Act's prohibition against taking of protected birds, since death or injury was not intentional, and grated the defendant's motion to dismiss.
  • After defendant received a shipment of dead frogs, he was convicted of violating a portion of the Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 42(c), which made it a misdemeanor to knowingly cause or permit any wild animal to be transported to the United States under inhumane or unhealthful conditions. Defendant appealed, and judgment was reversed and remanded with instructions to enter a judgment of not guilty. The government failed to meet its burden to prove not only that the defendant knowingly caused or permitted the transportation to the United States of a wild animal, but also that the defendant knew the conditions under which the frogs was transported were "inhumane or unhealthful."

  • Ricky Bryant appeals convictions on one misdemeanor and two felony counts of purchasing illegally obtained fox pelts, violations of the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, 16 U.S.C. § 3371-3378 (1981).  The court held that the North Carolina regulation, which unambiguously prohibited the hunting of foxes without authorization and expressly stated that dealing in untagged pelts is illegal, withstood the void for vagueness test as prosecuted under the Lacey Act.  The court further dismissed challenges based on an entrapment defense and arguments that the Lacey Act constitutes an unconstitutional delegation to the States of legislative power reserved to Congress.

  • Defendant was a commercial fisherman and conditionally pled guilty to unlawfully acquiring and transporting halibut with market value of more than $350 and knowingly intending to sell illegally taken halibut in violation of Lacey Act after he exceeded the catch limits set by the Pacific Halibut Act.  Defendant argued that the Lacey Act criminalized the same civil conduct regulated by the Halibut Act, thereby superseding that federal statute.  The court disagreed, finding that the purpose of the Lacey Act was to strengthen existing wildlife laws where the underlying law did not specify exclusive control. 

  • Defendant owned a goldfish farm and hired lethal "birdmen" to kill various birds that interfered with his operation, including herons and egrets, by means of shooting, trapping, and poisoning.  In reversing defendant's conviction under the Lacey Act, the Court disagreed with the government's position that the act of taking of the birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treat Act also implicated the Lacey Act.  The court held that the Lacey Act requires something beyond the first taking; indeed a person must do something to wildlife that has already been "taken or possessed" in violation of law.

  • After 35 dead Brown Pelicans were discovered in the space between the inner wall of the caisson and the outer wall of a wellhead, Chevron was charged with a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. But, the Court held that the MBTA was clearly not intended to apply to commercial ventures where, occasionally, protected species might be incidentally killed as a result of totally legal and permissible activities. Therefore, at the plea hearing the Court refused to accept the plea of guilty from Chevron.
  • In 2007, CITGO was convicted of unlawfully taking and aiding and abetting the taking of migratory birds under MBTA § 707(a) after ten dead birds were found in two large open-top oil tanks. CITGO moved the Court to vacate its convictions, arguing that the MTBA criminalizes the unlawful taking or killing of migratory birds by hunting, trapping, poaching, or similar means, but does not criminalize commercial activities in which migratory birds are unintentionally killed as a result of activity completely unrelated to hunting, trapping, or poaching. In response, the Government argued that the MTBA prohibits the taking or killing of a migratory bird at any time, by any means or in any manner. The evidence presented at trial established that a number of individuals saw oil-covered birds, both dead and alive. An employee told senior management and suggested to another member of CITGO's senior management team that CITGO install nets on the tanks to prevent birds from landing in the oil. Based on this evidence, the court held that not only was it reasonably foreseeable that protected migratory birds might become trapped in the layers of oil on top of the tanks, but that CITGO was aware that this was happening for years and did nothing to stop it. Because CITGO's unlawful, open-air oil tanks proximately caused the deaths of migratory birds in violation of the MBTA, CITGO's Motion to Vacate CITGO's Conviction for Violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was denied.
  • CITGO was convicted of multiple violations of the Clean Air Act and its regulations, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (“MBTA”). CITGO urged the 5th Circuit to reverse the Clean Air Act convictions because the district court erroneously instructed the jury about the scope of a regulation concerning “oil-water separators.” CITGO also contended that the MBTA convictions were infirm because the district court misinterpreted the statute as covering unintentional bird kills. The 5th Circuit agreed with both contentions, holding that CITGO's equalization tanks and air floatation device were not oil-water separators under the Clean Air Act's regulations and that “taking” migratory birds involved only “conduct intentionally directed at birds, such as hunting and trapping, not commercial activity that unintentionally and indirectly caused migratory bird deaths. The district court’s decision was reversed and remanded with instructions.
  • Defendant and several individuals went on a duck hunt in and were charged with exceeding the limit for migratory birds under Virginia law.  The game wardens testified that the defendant, Clucas, admitted in the presence of the other parties that they had killed more than the 'bag', meaning thereby that they had killed more than ten ducks allowed for each person.  The government held the position that the other individuals were hired for the reason of taking or killing the ducks.  The court held that in view of the fact that January 6, 1943, was not the first day of the season the possession of twenty-six ducks by the two defendants did not constitute a violation of the provisions of the Virginia regulation. The possession being legal, the burden of proof did not shift to the defendants. 

  • As related to the BGEPA, the opinion distinguishes the degree of intent under the MBTA from that of the BGEPA.  It also holds that both statutes were designed to apply to activities outside of traditional scope of hunting and poaching (in this case poisoning of birds).  For further discussion on activities such as poisoning and electrocution prohibited under the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • The court reversed the district court's judgment of convictions against defendants for the illegal importation and the intent to sell iguanas in the United States because of prosecutorial misconduct. The court held that the prosecutor wasted valuable money in pursuing irrelevant testimony, and improperly questioned defendants and their witnesses after repeated warnings from the district court judge.

  • The legislative history surrounding the passage of the BGEPA as well as the plain language of the Act evinces an intent by Congress to abrogate the rights of Indians to take eagles except as otherwise provided by statute.  Defendant, a member and resident of the Yankton Sioux Tribe and Reservation, was charged with violations of the BGEPA and ESA after shooting several eagles on the reservation and selling eagle parts.  The Court held that any other interpretation would be inconsistent with the need to preserve the species.  For further discussion on the abrogation of Indian treaty rights under the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • Doyle is a physician who lives in Texas and runs a bird rehabilitation center where he breeds captive falcons, hoping to reintroduce them.  Here, the evidence was sufficient to sustain a conviction for violation of the Lacey Act making it unlawful for any person to possess and transport in interstate commerce any wildlife taken or transported in violation of any state law (Montana).  Although defendant obtained proper state permits to possess and transfer described falcons, defendant was aware that the falcons' origins had been misrepresented; therefore, defendant has sufficient knowledge under the statute.

  • The jury found that Fejes sold caribou in violation of the Lacey Act by providing guide services to two hunters that took the caribou in violation of Alaska law.  The court held that a "sale" of wildlife for purposes of 16 U.S.C. § 3373(d)(1)(B) encompasses not only the agreement to provide guide or outfitting services, but also the actual provision of such services.  Further, defendant was not entitled to instruction regarding alleged state law requirement that he transport illegally taken caribou because the evidence at trial unquestionably showed that he sold caribou in interstate commerce.

  • Defendant kennel operator was found to violate the AWA on multiple occasions when inspected by APHIS representatives. From 2005 to 2009, defendant repeatedly failed inspections where APHIS found that he provided inadequate veterinary care, did not maintain complete records on the dogs, and did not properly maintain the housing facilities for the dogs. The Administrator of APHIS filed and served on Defendant an administrative complaint for violations. Defendant never filed an answer, and so a Default Decision and Order was entered against Defendant. The Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment was granted in part because Defendant failed to file an answer to the administrative complaint, and so was deemed to have admitted the allegations in the complaint.

  • FMC operated a plant which manufactured various pesticides, requiring large amounts of wastewater which was stored in a pond. The pond attracted waterfowl during migration, some of which died. FMC attempted various measures to keep birds away from the pond. But, the Court held that FMC had engaged in an activity involving the manufacture of a highly toxic chemical and had failed to prevent this chemical from escaping into the pond and killing birds. The Court, therefore, held that this was sufficient to impose strict liability on FMC.
  • Roosevelt Fountain, Sr. ("Fountain") and his daughter, Shirley Fountain Ellison ("Ellison") operated an oyster fishing business in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, called Fountain Seafood, Inc., where their convictions arose from the manner in which they operated the business (i.e., tagging violations, taking of oysters from closed areas, taking of excess limits of oysters, and licensing violations).  The indictment further contended that the appellants worked to accomplish this goal by creating false records relating to their oyster sales.  The court held that it was not error for no instruction on the term "willfully," since the false record provision refers to "knowingly" as the mens rea requirement.  Further, the court held that "materiality" is also not a provision of the Lacey Act's false records provision.

  • The Defendant, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, was charged with violating the Eagle Act after he illegally shot a bald eagle for an important religious ritual. The Defendant claimed that prosecution was prevented by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Friday claimed that the government failed to protect eagles killed when they strike power lines. The Court of Appeals held that the permitting process did not facially violate the RFRA and any difference in government's treatment of Native Americans taking eagles for religious purposes and power companies whose power lines killed eagles did not indicate that government failed to protect eagles in least restrictive manner. 

  • The court finds that the legislative history and surrounding circumstances of the BGEPA evinces a congressional intent to restrict treaty-based rights to hunt eagles.  The court aligns itself with Judge Lay's dissent in U.S. v. White to hold that the BGEPA abrogated Indian hunting rights related to eagles.  For further discussion on the abrogation of Indian treaty rights under the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • In an issue of first impression, this Court considered whether the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA) was unconstitutional either on its face or as-applied to defendants. The defendants in this case were an animal rights organization ("SHAC") and six associated individuals. The defendants engaged in direct action ranging from electronic civil disobedience to destroying property at the homes of individuals associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences (a research corporation that performs animal testing for other companies). Defendants argued that the statute has a chilling effect on speech because protestors will refrain from all speech, even protected speech, due to the ambiguity of what the statute proscribes. Thus the Court found that the government provided sufficient evidence to prove that the defendants conspired to violate the AEPA.

  • Defendant first argues that the district court lacked jurisdiction because the government failed to plead and prove two essential jurisdictional elements for a 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(1) violation--namely, that Mr. Gardner was not an Indian and that the crime affected interstate commerce.  The court found the non- Indian status of the defendant is not an essential element of jurisdiction for a 16 U.S.C. § 3372 violation.  It is only necessary to plead and prove an interstate commerce nexus where § 3372(a)(2) is implicated.  The Court reverses because the jury instructions did not sufficiently instruct the jury as to how it should consider uncorroborated accomplice testimony.

  • Gay-Lord was found guilty of engaging in interstate commerce in striped bass (rockfish) in violation of regulations and statutes of the Commonwealth of Virginia after purchasing the fish from undercover FWS agents and later selling it to an interstate distributor.  The Court held that conviction was proper despite undercover agents having transported fish from Virginia to trafficker's place of business in North Carolina.

  • The primary question in this appeal was whether Congress exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause in enacting a criminal prohibition against animal fighting. Defendants were indicted, in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, for their roles in organizing, operating, and participating in “gamefowl derbies,” otherwise known as “cockfighting.” Upon the 4th Circuit’s review of the parties' arguments, it held that the animal fighting statute was a legitimate exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause. It also held that the statute did not require the government to prove the defendants' knowledge regarding the particular venture's nexus to interstate commerce. Accordingly, the district court’s decision was affirmed.
  • Court held that defendant has standing to raise a facial challenge to the Indian eagle permit process where he declined to apply for a permit based on the intrusiveness of the questions.  Defendant is a member of a highly secretive religious sect of his tribe.  In the RFRA analysis, the court held that the permit application was not the least restrictive means of implementing the government's compelling interest where the permit required intrusive information about religious practices.  For further discussion on Native American religious challenges to the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act .

  • Defendant challenged the search of his residence in a drug raid in which his dog was shot.  The court held that the shooting of Gregory's dog was done excusably by an officer who reacted quickly in a potentially dangerous situation to a perceived attack by an animal reasonably believed to be an attack dog. The shooting of the dog did not render the search unreasonable.

  • In a Lacey Act prosecution for conspiracy to engage in conduct prohibited by the Act, the prosecution need not allege that all the defendants involved committed the underlying substantive violation of the Lacey Act to charge the defendants with conspiracy.  Moreover, the alleged overt acts need not be criminal in nature.

  • The court affirmed the decision of the district court which convicted defendant of violations of the Lacey Act (Act) and the Endangered Species Act. The court held that the Act was not unconstitutional, that defendant was not permitted to collaterally challenge an agency regulation on the grounds of new scientific evidence, and that the Secretary of the Interior's finding that the turtle was a valid species was not arbitrary.

  • Defendants appealed sentences arising out of a Missouri-based dog-fighting conspiracy. Each man pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in animal fighting ventures in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and one Defendant additionally pleaded guilty to engaging in animal fighting ventures in violation of 7 U.S.C. § 2156. When sentencing each defendant, the district court applied an upward departure provision found in the application notes to United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG or Guidelines). Each appellant argued that his relevant conduct was not sufficiently cruel to warrant the upward departure. The 8th Circuit found, however, that the district court had properly considered conduct that was legally relevant to Defendants' sentencing under the Guidelines. The court also found that Defendants' conduct amounted to more than just possessing fighting pit bulls. Defendants bred, raised, trained, sold, and fought them knowing that the dogs would be allowed, if not required, to fight until severely injured or dead. Thus, the ordinary cruelty inherent in dog fighting justifies base offense level, while the extraordinary cruelty of Defendants' crimes separately justified the upward departure. The district court's judgment was affirmed.
  • This opinion vacates and remands U.S. v. Hale, 2004 WL 2367994.

  • Defendant shipped caviar made from the roe of Columbia River sturgeon, which he paid for in cash and fictitiously recorded the caviar as imported.  The Company and Hansen-Sturm were indicted for the violations of the Lacey Act and for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act.  The court held that defendants could be convicted for the lesser included offense of conspiracy to perform a negligent act, even though it was based on a standard of negligence versus intentional conduct.  The conspirators in the exercise of due care should have known that the protected prey was taken and possessed in violation of state law.   

  • The Hardman and Wilgus cases are remanded for factfinding where the record was limited as to whether the government employed the least restrictive means to support its compelling interests of protecting eagles and Native American culture.  On the Saenz motion for return of eagle feathers to a non-federally recognized Indian religious practitioner, the court holds that the government failed to support its assertions that opening the permit system to all adherents of Indian religions would compromise the eagle population or destroy federal trust obligations to Native American tribes/culture.  For discussion of the BGEPA and religious challenges, see Detailed Discussion .

  • Appellant challenged the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, which convicted him of taking a marine mammal in violation of the MMPA.  The court reversed appellant's conviction for taking a marine mammal under the MMPA.  It held that the MMPA and the regulations implementing the act did not make it a crime to take reasonable steps to deter porpoises from eating fish or bait off a fisherman's line. 

  • Defendant finds a decaying eagle carcass on a wildlife preserve.  He then removes the legs and talons of the eagle to bring to a Boy Scout function.  The court reverses his conviction (and $1.00 fine) finding that he did not possess the requisite intent.  The court determines that a conviction under the BGEPA demands a specific intent.  For further discussion on intent under the BGEPA see  Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • Following his conviction for a violation of the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. § 3371, et seq., Defendant Heuer moved for a new trial.  Where defendant, who obtained guiding and license for hunting elk, engaged in conduct that involved purchase of elk, it was not necessary for government to prove such services occurred in interstate commerce for purposes of Lacey Act conviction.

  • Defendants shot and sold bald eagles to undercover officers posing as big game hunters in Montana.  On appeal, the court denied their claims against the permit system, finding that they lacked standing to challenge the permit system where they failed to apply for permits.  With regard to a facial challenge to the statute, the court held that the BGEPA passed the RFRA test, where the government asserted a compelling interest that was effectuated in the least restrictive means.  For further discussion on commerce in eagle parts, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act .

  • Defendants were convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota of possession of an illegal substance with intent to distribute, and they appealed. This case discussed searches and seizures and the Fourth Amendment.

  • Court considered defendant's claim based on newly enacted RFRA.  Court finds defendant's asserted need to kill 12 eagles a year would decimate eagle population in Oregon.  While not perfect, court finds the eagle permit system the least restrictive means to achieve the compelling need of protecting eagles.  For further discussion on religious challenges to the BGEPA by Native Americans, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • A jury convicted William Kapp for multiple violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act connected with the killing of, and trafficking in, endangered tigers and leopards and their meat, hides, and other parts. On appeal, Kapp claims he is entitled to a new trial because the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the jury's verdict and the district court erroneously admitted certain evidence. Kapp also argues that the manner in which he was sentenced violated the Sixth Amendment. The court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict on all counts, and the district court did not err in its evidentiary ruling.  His conviction was, therefore, affirmed, but a limited remand was ordered to determine whether Kapp should be resentenced .

  • The Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“APHIS”) brought an administrative action against Defendants for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act in connection with Defendants' exotic animal exhibition activities. A judgment was entered for a civil penalty of $57,750 against each Defendant in the administrative action. Defendants have refused to pay, claiming that their due process rights were violated in the underlying administrative proceeding; the judgment, they argued, was therefore void and unenforceable. The United States filed this matter against Defendants seeking to enforce that judgment. Before this Court were the cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff’s motion was granted because the Court could not overlook Defendant's absence of any effort to follow up with the Hearing Clerk, considering the many avenues of communication available. There were also no disputed issues of material fact concerning service of the Administrative Law Judge's Decision and Order, and provision of notice of Defendants' appeal rights. Moreover, this Court lacked jurisdiction to reconsider or otherwise vacate the Agency's final order. 7 U.S.C. § 2149(b) also permitted the institution of a civil action by the Attorney General to collect the penalty imposed and no other facts were presented disputing the validity of the administrative judgment imposing the civil penalty.
  • Defendant sells a headdress containing golden eagle feathers obtained before 1962 to an undercover officer.  Court finds this case directly controlled by Andrus v. Allard .  Court reiterates prohibition on any eagle commerce.  For further discussion on the restriction of commerce in eagle parts under the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • Defendants appealed their conviction of violating, and conspiring to violate, the animal fighting prohibition of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The Court of Appeals granted a new trial, but held, in part, that the AWA is a constitutional exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, and that the provision of different elements of the crime in jurisdictions permitting animal fighting does not violate equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. 
  • Fishermen who took part in importing salmon that they knew or should have known had been taken in violation of Taiwanese regulation, could be subjected to criminal penalties for violation of the Lacey Act, despite the fact not all fishermen who were involved actually violated the Taiwanese regulation.  The fishermen argue that the term "any foreign law" encompasses only foreign statutes, not foreign regulations; however, the court previously ruled that a Taiwanese regulation prohibiting the export of salmon without a permit constituted a "foreign law" under section 3372(a)(2)(A) and thereby supported an Act violation.

  • A jury convicted defendant of one count of violating the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 3371-3378. The jury found that defendant had violated Oklahoma law by capturing wild elk, holding them captive, and organizing at least one commercial elk hunt, without a license for those activities. The court affirmed. Violation of a state hunting law was an adequate basis for a Lacey Act prosecution. There was sufficient evidence to prove that the Oklahoma statute regarding commercial hunting licenses applied to defendant, and that defendant had knowledge of the statute's requirements.

  • Defendant was convicted of a number of offenses related to his role in a wildlife smuggling operation. If trial did not begin within the requisite time period and defendant moved for dismissal prior to trial, the court had to dismiss the indictment, either with or without prejudice. The court held that the circumstances in the case, where it was clear that the delay in the trial caused the delay in the hearing, rather than the other way around, and where defendant repeatedly asked the court to set the case for trial and was otherwise ready to proceed to trial, plaintiff United States' pending pretrial motion could not serve as a basis for exclusion for a 117 day period. Because the delay violated the Speedy Trial Act, defendant's convictions had to be reversed, his sentences vacated, and his indictments dismissed.

  • Laws governing intrastate activities will be upheld if they substantially affect interstate commerce.  Under the Eagle Act, the power to regulate eagles has been summarily upheld as a valid exercise of commerce power, as it protects the eagle as a species by preventing the creation of a legal commercial market for the animal.  For further discussion of the Eagle Act, see Detailed Discussion.

  • Defendant, a non-Native American practitioner of Native American religion, challenged his conviction as a religious exercise violation where there was no evidence that defendant was trafficking in eagle parts.  Employing a RFRA analysis, the court found that while the limitation under the BGEPA to members of federally-recognized Indian tribes did substantially burden defendant's exercise of religion, the government asserted a compelling interest in protecting a rare species and maintaining Indian culture that was administered through the least restrictive means (e.g., the permit process).  For further discussion on religious challenges to the BGEPA by non-Native Americans, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act .

  • Defendants challenge their eagle convictions under the MBTA, alleging that they should have been charged under the more specific BGEPA.  Court holds the government may elect to proceed under either statute; nothing in the language or legislative history proscribes prosecution under the more general MBTA.  For further discussion on the intersection of the MBTA and the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • Court held the 1962 version of the BGEPA mandates a jury trial where defendant requests one, despite the fact it constitutes a "petty offense."  For further discussion of criminal prosecutions under the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • Defendants Goodfriend and Benney, commercial fishermen licensed pursuant to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC"), are charged with catching and failing to return substantial quantities of eel and walleye from Lake Ontario and New York waters in violation of  New York law that prohibits commerce in these fish because of health and conservation concerns.  Aware of the ban prohibiting the sale of eel and walleye taken from these waters, Goodfriend and Benney subsequently sold the eel and walleye to a host of fish wholesalers and retailers, located within and outside New York.  Defendant truck driver's alleged filing of false Canadian customs forms relating to eel and walleye he was transporting from the U.S. to his Canadian employer were violations of the Lacey Act, regardless of whether these acts violated Canadian law.

  • Jesus Ismael Miranda with his company, J.M. Seafood, Inc., and Mario Gonzalez with his company, Mario Seafood Company, were convicted of conspiring in Florida to sell undersized spiny lobster tails, also known as "shorts."  The case was ultimately dismissed without prejudice because of a violation of the Speedy Trial Act.  The court did find sufficient evidence that defendant and his company conspired to sell undersized spiny lobster tails where an undercover agent found sufficient connections in the form of conversations and business dealing between defendant and co-defendant Gonzales.

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