Federal Cases

Case namesort ascending Citation Summary
Zuckerman v. Coastal Camps, Inc. 716 F.Supp.2d 23 (D.Me., 2010)

This case arose after twelve-year old Samantha Zuckerman sustained injuries when she fell the pony she was riding during a horseback riding lesson at Camp Laurel in Mount Vernon, Maine. Samantha alleged that her instructors improperly saddled the pony, which caused her saddle to slip. In appealing the Magistrate's recommended decision, Camp Laurel again claims that it is immune from liability under Maine Equine Activities Act because a slipping saddle is a risk inherent to the sport of horseback riding. Camp Laurel contends that the faulty tack exception is limited to situations where the tack cracks, breaks, or frays and does not include  an “improperly tightened girth” or an “inappropriate pony” or “faulty horse.” This Court agreed with the Magistrate Judge that the record raises a genuine issue of material fact concerning the “faulty” tack exception. The Court found that the negligence here was tied to an exception to the liability shield - faulty tack.

Zimmerman v. Wolff 622 F.Supp.2d 240 (E.D. Pa. 2008) Plaintiff initiated this action against defendant in his official capacity as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, asking the Court to enjoin defendant from seizing plaintiff's dogs and from preventing him from operating his dog kennel under his federal license. Plaintiff simultaneously filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. The State moved for dismissal due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Since the Animal Welfare Act did not create a private cause of action, the district court dismissed the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff’s constitutional claims were also dismissed because the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over constitutional claims brought against state actors directly. Plaintiff’s motions were therefore denied and defendant’s motion was granted. The court went on to address whether it would be appropriate to grant plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to bring the Commerce and Supremacy clause claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and found that it would be futile for both.
Zalaski v. City of Hartford 723 F.3d 382 (C.A.2 (Conn.))

When animal rights activists, who were protesting the treatment of animals at a race sponsored by a circus, were arrested for criminal trespass and obstruction of free passage,  the filed a section 1983 lawsuit for false arrest, unlawful retaliation, malicious prosecution, and interference with free expression under both the U.S. and Connecticut constitution against the city and the officer.  Upon appeal of the lower court’s rejection of the activists’ First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims, the court (1) affirmed the lower court’s decision on the ground of qualified immunity under section 1983, (2) would not address whether a pro se attorney who represented plaintiffs in addition to himself may be awarded fees because the issue was not raised in district court, and (3) vacated the judgment only in order to remand the case for the limited purpose of having the district court clarify whether it awarded the activists the costs incurred as a result of a discovery certification violation.

Wyoming v. United States Department of the Interior 360 F. Supp. 2d 1214 (Wy. 2005)

 In a letter, the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming's wolf management plan due to Wyoming's predatory animal classification for gray wolves.  Wyoming brought claims against the United States Department of the Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act.  The District Court dismissed the claims for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning the letter did not constitute final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act. 

Wyoming Farm Bureau v. Babbitt 987 F.Supp. 1349 (D. Wyoming 1997)

The Wyoming Farm Bureau, amateur researchers, and environmental groups appealed an agency to introduce experimental population of gray wolves in a national park and central Idaho. After ruling on the various standing issues, the court held that the ESA section allowing experimental population to be maintained only when it is "wholly separate geographically" from nonexperimental populations includes overlap even with individual members of nonexperimental species.   However, the defendants' treatment of all wolves found within boundaries of designated experimental population areas as nonessential experimental animals was contrary to law as provided in their own regulations.   Therefore, the court ordered that Defendants' Final Rules establishing a nonessential experimental population of gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, central Idaho and southwestern Montana was unlawful.   Further, that by virtue of the plan being set aside, defendants must remove reintroduced non-native wolves and their offspring from the Yellowstone and central Idaho experimental population areas.  This decision was reversed in 199 F.3d 1224.

Wyoming Farm Burearu v. Babbitt 199 F.3d 1224 (10th Cir. 2000)

The State Farm Bureaus (a national farm organization)), researchers, and environmental groups appealed from decision of United States and federal agencies to introduce experimental population of gray wolves in a national park and central Idaho. The United States District Court for the District of Wyoming struck down the Department of Interior's final wolf introduction rules and ordered reintroduced wolves removed. In reversing the lower court's decision, the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit held that the possibility that individual wolves from existing wolf populations could enter experimental population areas did not violate provision of Endangered Species Act requiring that such populations remain "geographically separate."  Further, the fact that the promulgated rules treated all wolves, including naturally occurring wolves, found within designated experimental population areas as nonessential experimental animals did not violate ESA.

Woudenberg v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 794 F.3d 595 (6th Cir., 2015) According to Department of Agriculture regulations promulgated under the federal Animal Welfare Act (with certain exceptions not applicable here), persons who were in the business of buying and selling dogs and cats (i.e. class B dealers) may not obtain dogs or cats from an individual donor “who did not breed and raise them on his or her premises.” Another provision required a dealer in such a case to “obtain [ ] a certification that the animals were born and raised on that person's premises.” The question in this case was whether there was a violation when the dealer obtained the required certification, but the certification was false. The regulatory language was clear that a dealer violated the law by obtaining a dog or cat from an individual donor who did not breed or raise it on the donor's premises and it was still a violation even when the dealer in good faith obtained certifications that the animals had been so bred and raised. The certification requirement was an enforcement mechanism for the prohibition, not an exception. The Department of Agriculture therefore properly entered a cease-and-desist order against the petitioner.
Winingham v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. 859 F.Supp. 1019 (1994)

Ostrich owners sued to recover actual and exemplary damages, attorney fees, costs and interests for gross negligence after an airship flew over their property at  low altitude, which frightened interfered with the ostriches’ breeding. The District Court held that: (1) allegations of fright and temporary loss of libido failed to allege compensable injury absent proof of physical injury; and (2) owners were not entitled to recover speculative value of unborn offspring; and (3) absent actual damages, exemplary damages could not be awarded.

Wilkins v. Daniels Slip Copy, 2012 WL 6644465 (S.D.Ohio, 2012)

Various owners of exotic and wild animals filed a lawsuit in order to obtain a temporary restraining order and a permanent/preliminary injunction against the Ohio Department of Agriculture and its Director, David Daniels. The owners of the exotic and wild animals argued the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes Act, which the Ohio Department of Agriculture and its Director were trying to enforce, was unconstitutional. The district court denied the owners’ motion for obtain a temporary restraining order and a permanent/preliminary injunction reasoning that the exceptions to the Act’s ban on owning wild and exotic animals does not violate the owners’ freedom of association rights, that the legislature had a legitimate purpose so as to not violate procedural due process with regards to micro-chipping wild and exotic animals, and that the Act did not constitute an unconstitutional takings. Significantly, the court recognized that owners of wild and exotic animals have a limited or qualified property interest in said animals.

Wilderness Society v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 316 F.3d 913 (9th Cir. 2003)

Plaintiffs, The Wilderness Society and the Alaska Center for the Environment, challenge a decision by Defendant United States Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) to permit a sockeye salmon enhancement project (the Project) at Tustumena Lake (within a designated wilderness area in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska). Plaintiffs argue that the Project violates the Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1131- 1136, because it contravenes that Act's requirement to preserve the "natural condition" and "wilderness character" of the area, and because it constitutes an impermissible "commercial enterprise" within a wilderness area.  With regard to the "wilderness character" question, the court held that the Service permissibly interpreted the Act, and that the activities in question did not contravene the wilderness character of the Refuge, as the Service's decision that the Project is "compatible" with the purposes of the Refuge is entitled to deference.  With regard to the prohibition against "commercial activities," the Court held that the Service reasonably determined that non-wilderness commercial activities providing funding for a nonprofit organization conducting a project did not render project "commercial enterprise" barred by statute.

WILDEARTH GUARDIANS vs. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 703 F.3d 1178 (10th Cir. Ct. App.,2013)

In this case, the WildEarth Guardians brought a suit against the National Park Service for violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Rocky Mountain National Park Enabling Act (RMNP)'s ban on hunting. The district court and the appeals court, however, held that the NPS did not violate NEPA because the agency articulated reasons for excluding the natural wolf alternative from its Environmental Impact Statement. Additionally, since the National Park Service Organic Act (NPSOA)'s detrimental animal exception and the RMNP's dangerous animal exception apply to the prohibition on killing, capturing, or wounding—not the prohibition on hunting, the use of volunteers to cull the park’s elk population did not violate the RMNP or the NPSOA.  

WildEarth Guardians v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service 342 F. Supp. 3d 1047 (D. Mont. 2018) In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (The Service) issued regulations implementing the CITES Program for certain Appendix II species that are in the United States which include bobcats, gray wolves, river otters, Canada lynx, and brown grizzly bears. Under the regulations, certain requirements must be met prior to the species exportation from the Unites States. The Service annually distributes export tags to approved states and tribes which are then distributed to trappers, hunters, and other individuals seeking to export furbearer species. The Service drafted an incidental take statement setting a cap on the amount of Canada lynx that are allowed to be killed or injured while bobcats are hunted. Plaintiffs brought this action claiming that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not adequately analyzing the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the CITES Program and by not preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It is further alleged that the 2001 and 2012 Biological Opinions and Incidental Take Statement referenced and incorporated in the Environmental Assessment that the Service conducted is deficient under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Center for Biological Diversity filed a separate action raising similar NEPA claims. The two actions were consolidated into one and the WildEarth case was designated as the lead case. The Service and the intervenors challenged the Plaintiff's standing to bring their claims. The District Court found that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their claims. As for the NEPA claims, the Court held that the only time an EIS is necessary is when a specific agency action alters the status quo. In this case, the Court found no identifiable agency action that would alter the status quo. The Service has administered the CITES Export Program since 1975 and it does not propose "any site-specific activity nor call for specific action directly impacting the physical environment." As for the EPA claims, in the Incidental Take Statement drafted by the Service, the authorized level of take is set as follows: "two (2) lynx may be killed and two (2) injured annually due to trapping over the 10-year term of th[e] biological opinion." The Plaintiffs argued that the use of the word "and" in the "Two and Two" standard was ambiguous. The District Court agreed and held that as currently worded, the "two and two" fails to set an adequate trigger for take because it is not clear whether one or both are necessary to exceed the trigger. The Plaintiffs also argue that the terms "annually" and "injury" are ambiguous. The District Court held that "annually" was ambiguous, however, it was not enough to independently make the statement arbitrary and capricious. The Court also held that the Service's use of the word "injury" was both overbroad and underinclusive. The Service's interpretation and use of the term is arbitrary and capricious in the context of this case. The Court found that the reporting requirements were arbitrary and capricious and that the take statement does not set forth reasonable and prudent measures to minimize the impact of incidental taking on the species. The Service provides states and tribes with a brochure with information on lynx identification and other information every time bobcat tags are issued, however the brochures are not required to be given out by states and tribes, it is merely recommended. The District Court ultimately Denied the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to their NEPA claims and granted it as to their ESA claims. The incidental take statement was remanded to the Service for further review and clarification.
Wildearth Guardians v. U.S. Department of the Interior 205 F. Supp. 3d 1176 (D. Mont. 2016) In this case, Wildearth Guardians filed suit to challenge the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the Canada lynx. Wildearth argued that United States Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly excluded geographical areas in its final critical habitat designation. The areas that Wildearth argued should have been included in the designation were the Southern Rockies in Colorado, the Kettle Range of northeastern Washington, the state of Oregon, and certain National Forest lands in Montana and Idaho. Ultimately, the court reviewed Wildearth’s arguments and held that the Fish and Wildlife Service did wrongly exclude the Southern Rockies in Colorado and the National Forest lands in Montana and Idaho. With regard to the areas in Washington and Oregon, the court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service did not err in excluding in those areas from the critical habitat designation. The Fish and Wildlife Service used “primary constituent elements” (PCE) to determine which areas should be designated as a critical habitat for the Canada lynx. The court found that with respect to Colorado, there was a close call as to one of the of PCE’s and that the Service should have favored the lynx according to the standard set in the Endangered Species Act. Lastly, the court found that the Service also erred with respect to Montana and Idaho because it failed to comply with previous court orders to inspect the lands to determine whether or not the lands contained “physical and biological features essential to lynx recovery.” The court found that had the Service complied with these orders, it would have found that Montana and Idaho should have been included in the designation. The plaintiffs motions were granted in part and the matter was remanded to the Service for further action consistent with this order. The final rule remains in effect until the Service issues a new final rule on lynx critical habitat, at which time the September 2014 final rule will be superseded.
WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar 741 F.Supp.2d 89 (D.D.C., 2010)

Plaintiff, WildEarth Guardians, brought this action seeking judicial review of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final agency actions pertaining to the Utah prairie dog. Specifically, Plaintiffs aver that the FWS erred in denying (1) their petition to reclassify the Utah prairie dog as an endangered species under the ESA and (2) their petition to initiate rulemaking to repeal a regulation allowing for the limited extermination (i.e., take) of Utah prairie dogs. With respect to Plaintiff’s challenge as to reclassification, the court concluded that Plaintiff’s motion for Summary Judgment should be granted on two grounds. However, the court denied Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (and granted Defendant’s cross-motion) insofar as Plaintiff asserted that the FWS’ refusal to initiate rulemaking was arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the ESA.

Wildearth Guardians v. Kempthorne 592 F.Supp.2d 18 (D.D.C.,2008)

In its suit for declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that Defendant, the Secretary of the Interior, failed to comply with his mandatory duty under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) to make a preliminary 90-day finding on two ESA listing petitions brought by Plaintiff, Plaintiff moved for leave to amend its Complaint to include a new claim against Defendant stemming from Defendant’s denial of an additional petition submitted by Plaintiff requesting that a small subset of species which had been included in one of the petitions at issue in the original Complaint be given protection on an emergency basis.   The United States District Court, District of Columbia granted Plaintiff’s motion to amend the Complaint to clarify that only a total of 674 species are covered by the two non-emergency petitions, rather than the 681 as stated in the original Complaint, but denied Plaintiff’s motion for leave to supplement its Complaint with a new claim, finding that Defendant’s decision not to issue emergency listings is committed to agency discretion by law, and thus precludes judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act.

White v. U.S. 601 F.3d 545 (C.A.6 (Ohio), 2010)

The Plaintiff-Appellants are citizens (show bird breeders, feed store owners, and game bird judges) who allege that the AWA amendments to § 2156 concerning animal fighting ventures have caused them various individual and collective injuries. The plaintiffs-appellants allege that these provisions are unconstitutional insofar as they constitute a bill of attainder; violate the principles of federalism contained in, inter alia, the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Amendments to the United States Constitution; and unduly impinge on the plaintiffs-appellants' First Amendment right of association, constitutional right to travel, and Fifth Amendment right to due process for deprivations of property and liberty. The district court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of Article III standing. The Sixth Circuit held that while economic injuries may constitute an injury-in-fact for the purposes of Article III standing, the plaintiffs' alleged economic injuries due to restrictions on cockfighting are not traceable only to the AWA. Additionally, because the AWA does not impose any penalties without a judicial trial, it is not a bill of attainder. The decision of the district court was affirmed.

Western Watersheds Project v. USDA APHIS Wildlife Services 320 F.Supp.3d 1137 (D. Idaho June 22, 2018) This action considers motions for summary judgment by both parties. At issue here is a plan by a branch of the USDA called Wildlife Services (WS), which is responsible for killing or removing predators and other animals that prey on wild game animals, threaten agricultural interests, or pose a danger to humans. The decision to kill the animals comes from requests from individuals or other state and federal agencies rather than a decision by WS. For this case, the facts center on an expanded operation to kill game animals and protected species in Idaho (mainly coyotes and ravens) known as PDM. As part of this process, WS prepared and circulated a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) to other federal agencies, stakeholders, and the public seeking comment to the expanded plan. However, instead of taking the criticisms and suggestions from the EA and then undertaking a more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), WS instead rejected most responses and labeled them as unconvincing or invalid. This led plaintiff to file suit against WS, arguing that the agency acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by not preparing the EIS after comments to the EA. For example, the BLM, the Forest Service, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), found that the EA was not an "objective analysis" and instead sounded "like a pre-decisional defense of lethal methods." These agencies warned WS that the predator control methods were "likely to be futile over the long-term" and did not consider cascading effects on both cyclic and non-cyclic prey populations. In analyzing the factors, this court found that WS failed to consider "several federal agencies with long experience and expertise in managing game animals and protected species" when proposing to expand the expanded PDM program. There was a lack of crucial data to support WS' assumptions in its modeling that was exacerbated by use of unreliable data, according to the court. In addition, the court found that WS failed to "explain away scientific challenges to the effectiveness of predator removal." Not only was the court troubled by the lack of reliable data used by WS, but the WS’ “unconvincing responses” to agencies that had substantial experience managing wildlife and land-use concerns demonstrated to the court that the PDM is controversial and the environmental impacts were uncertain. This in and of itself necessitated an EIS under NEPA. The court held that the lack of reliable data, the unconvincing responses from WS, combine to trigger three intensity factors that combine to require WS to prepare an EIS. The plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment was granted and the defendant's motion for summary judgment was denied (the motion by plaintiff to supplement the administrative record was deemed moot).
Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink 620 F.3d 1187 (C.A.9 (Idaho). 2010)

Plaintiff environmental advocacy organization sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for revisions to nationwide grazing regulations for federal lands, arguing that the revisions violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). The Court of Appeals held that BLM violated NEPA by failing to take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of the proposed changes, and violated the ESA by failing to consult with Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) before approving the revisions. Opinion Amended and Superseded on Denial of Rehearing en banc by: Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink, 632 F.3d 472 (9th Cir., 2010).

Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink 632 F.3d 472 (9th Cir., 2011)

Plaintiff environmental advocacy organization sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for revisions to nationwide grazing regulations for federal lands. Plaintiff argued that the 2006 Regulations violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). The Court of Appeals found for the plaintiff, holding that BLM violated NEPA by failing to take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of the proposed regulatory changes. BLM also violated the ESA by failing to consult with Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) before approving the revisions. The FLPMA claim was remanded.

Western Watersheds Project v. Hall Slip Copy, 2007 WL 2790404 (D.Idaho)

Plaintiff Western Watersheds Project filed the instant action challenging the “90-Day Finding” issued by the Defendants United States Fish and Wildlife Service that denied protection of the Interior Mountain Quail as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Service determined that the Petition had failed to provide information demonstrating that the Interior Mountain Quail population is discrete under the ESA. The District Court stated that, in order to qualify as a DPS, a population must “be both discrete and significant.” The court found that the Service's conclusion appropriately determined that this discreteness standard was not met and it provided a rational basis for concluding the Petition had failed to provide evidence of a marked separation between the populations of the same taxon.

Western Watersheds Project v. Dyer 2009 WL 484438 (D.Idaho)

The plaintiff, Western Watersheds Project (WWP), is an environmental group that brought this lawsuit to ban livestock grazing in certain areas of the Jarbidge Field Office (1.4 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho and northern Nevada). WWP alleges that continued grazing destroys what little habitat remains for imperiled species like the sage grouse, pygmy rabbit, and slickspot peppergrass (deemed “sensitive species” by the BLM).  After ten days of evidentiary hearings, the court found that three sensitive species in the JFO are in serious decline and that livestock grazing is an important factor in that decline. However, the court found that a ban on grazing was not required by law at this point since the Court was "confident" in the BLM's ability to modify the 2009 season in accordance with the Court's interpretation of the existing RMP.

Weigel v. Maryland 950 F.Supp.2d 811 (D.Md 2013)
Following the Tracey v. Solesky opinion, a nonprofit, nonstock cooperative housing corporation issued a rule that banned pit bulls on its premises.  Members and leaseholders who owned dogs believed to be pit bulls sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the corporation and the state of Maryland in an amended complaint. Although the district court found the plaintiffs had adequately demonstrated standing and ripeness in their claims, the court also found that some of the leaseholders and members' charges were barred by 11th Amendment immunity and by absolute judicial immunity. Additionally, the district court found that the leaseholders and members' amended complaint failed to plead plausible void-for-vagueness, substantive due process and takings claims. The district court, therefore, granted the state's motion to dismiss and held all other motions pending before the court to be denied as moot.
Washington v. Washington State Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel Ass'n 99 S.Ct. 3055 (1979)

The United States initiated an action seeking an interpretation of Indian fishing rights under treaties with Indian tribes of the Pacific Northwest.  The Court held that the language of the treaties securing a "right of taking fish . . . in common with all citizens of the Territory" was not intended merely to guarantee the Indians access to usual and accustomed fishing sites and an "equal opportunity" for individual Indians, along with non-Indians, to try to catch fish, but instead secures to the Indian tribes a right to harvest a share of each run of anadromous fish that passes through tribal fishing areas.  Thus, an equitable measure of the common right to take fish should initially divide the harvestable portion of each run that passes through a "usual and accustomed" place into approximately equal treaty and nontreaty shares, and should then reduce the treaty share if tribal needs may be satisfied by a lesser amount.  The Court also held that any state-law prohibition against compliance with the District Court's decree cannot survive the command of the Supremacy Clause, and the State Game and Fisheries Departments, as parties to this litigation, may be ordered to prepare a set of rules that will implement the court's interpretation of the parties' rights even if state law withholds from them the power to do so.

Warren v. Delvista Towers Condominium Ass'n, Inc. 49 F.Supp.3d 1082 (S.D. Fla. 2014) In its motion for summary judgment, Defendant argues Plaintiff’s accommodation request under the Federal Fair Housing Act (the “FHA”) to modify Defendant's “no pet” policy was unreasonable because Plaintiff's emotional support animal was a pit bull and pit bulls were banned by county ordinance. In denying the Defendant’s motion, the District Court found that changing a no pets policy for an emotional support animal was a reasonable accommodation under the FHA. The court also found that enforcing the county ordinance would violate the FHA by permitting a discriminatory housing practice. However, in line with US Department of Housing and Urban Development notices, the court found genuine issues of material fact remained as to whether the dog posed a direct threat to members of the condominium association, and whether that threat could be reduced by other reasonable accommodations.
Warboys v. Proulx 303 F.Supp.2d 111 (D. Conn. 2004)

Pitbull owner filed suit seeking compensatory damages arising from the shotting and killing of his dog by police.  Defendants removed the action based on federal question jurisdiction and moved for summary judgment, and the dog owner moved to amend the complaint.  Motions granted.

Wall v. City of Brookfield 406 F.3d 458 (7th Cir. 2005)

A dog that was constantly in violation of local leash ordinances was held as a stray by the town.  The owner of the dog brought a section 1983 action claiming deprivation of the dog's companionship without due process and the trial court held in favor of the town.  The Court of Appeals affirmed reasoning that only a post-deprivation hearing was necessary under the statute (which defendant could have received had she filed a petition with the court).

Walker-Serrano ex rel. Walker v. Leonard 325 F.3d 412 (C.A.3 (Pa.),2003)

Public school student circulated a petition during class and recess that opposed a school field trip to the circus. School officials prevented her from circulating the petition, and she complained of a violation of her First Amendment right to free speech. The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for the school, holding that the student's rights had not been violated because a school may regulate the times and circumstances a petition may be circulated when it interferes with educational goals or the rights of other students.

VOLPE VITO, INC. v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 58 Agric. Dec. 85 (1999) Judicial officer is not required to accept ALJ's findings of fact, even when those findings are based on credibility determinations, and judicial officer is authorized to substitute his or her judgment for that of ALJ.
Viilo v. Eyre 547 F.3d 707 (C.A.7 (Wis.),2008)

Virginia Viilo sued the City of Milwaukee and two of its police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after an officer shot and killed her dog 'Bubba.' The district court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity and the defendants took an interlocutory appeal challenging this denial. The court found that defendants' interjection of factual disputes deprived the court of jurisdiction. The court further held that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for a police officer to shoot and kill a companion dog that poses no imminent danger while the dog’s owner is present and trying to assert custody over her pet.  

Viilo v. City of Milwaukee 552 F. Supp. 2d 826 (E.D. Wis. 2008) The court in this case denied summary judgement for the defendant after two police officers shot plaintiff’s dog four times which ultimately resulted in the dog’s death. The court denied summary judgment because it believed that there was a question as to a material fact of the case. The material fact in this case was whether or not the officers reasonably feared for their lives when the dog was shot the third and fourth time. After the dog was injured from the first two shots, there was inconsistent testimony as to whether the dog was still acting in an aggressive manner, which may have warranted the third and fourth shots. Due to the inconsistent testimony, the court held that a ruling of summary judgment was not appropriate. Defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted as to all claims except the claim that the third and fourth shots constituted an illegal seizure.
Vickers v. Egbert 359 F. Supp. 2d 1358 (Fla. 2005)

A commercial fisherman brought a claim against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission alleging substantive due process violations.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission instituted licensing requirements and restrictions on lobster trapping certificates in order to alleviate an overpopulation of lobster traps.  The court held in favor of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, reasoning fishing was not a fundamental right.

Ventana Wilderness Alliance v. Bradford 2007 WL 1848042 (N.D.Cal.,2007)

Court upheld United States Forest Service's decision to allow cattle grazing on land designated as "wilderness" because grazing had been established on the land and because the federal agency had taken the necessary "hard look" at the environmental consequences caused by grazing.

Velzen v. Grand Valley State University 902 F.Supp.2d 1038(W.D. Mich. 2012) On March 30, 2012, Plaintiff and the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan (“FHCWM”) brought suit against Defendants, a university, alleging unlawful discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), Federal Rehabilitation Act, and Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”), for denying Plaintiff’s request to keep an emotional support animal in on-campus housing. All claims brought against the individual defendants were brought against them in their official capacities as university administrators. Plaintiffs sought both injunctive and compensatory relief. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and 12(b)(6), failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The District Court decided the following would be dismissed: (1) all claims under the PWDCRA against all defendants; (2) all claims for compensatory damages under the FHA brought against all defendants; (3) all claims for injunctive relief under the FHA brought against the institutional defendants; (4) all claims for relief under the Rehabilitation Act by the FHCWM; and (5) all claims for relief under the Rehabilitation Act by Plaintiff that depended on disparate treatment. The following claims remained: (1) Plaintiff and the FHCWM's claims under the FHA seeking injunctive relief from the individual defendants; and (2) Plaintiff's claims against all defendants for compensatory damages and injunctive relief under the Rehabilitation Act pursuant to the failure to accommodate theory.
Vanater v. Village of South Point 717 F. Supp. 1236 (D. Ohio 1989)

Village criminal ordinance, which prohibited the owning or harboring of pit bull terriers or other vicious dogs within village limits, was not overbroad, even though identification of a "pit bull" may be difficult in some situations, as there are methods to determine with sufficient certainty whether dog is a "pit bull.".

Utah Animal Rights Coalition v. Salt Lake County 566 F.3d 1236 (C.A.10 (Utah),2009)

The plaintiffs-appellants (Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) and five individuals) filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for alleged violations of their First Amendment rights to free speech and to peaceably assemble after the individual plaintiffs attempted to protest a circus in South Jordan, Utah. The district court entered summary judgment against the plaintiffs. On appeal, this court held that, without a showing of harm, the UARC did not meet its burden to demonstrate an injury in fact. The court did find that the individuals properly pleaded harm to establish standing. With regard to the § 1983 action, this court ruled that the district court correctly determined that county officials were entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

US v. Richards 2014 WL 2694225

*1 The First Amendment restrains government to “make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.” U.S. Const. amend. I.

United States v. Wallen 874 F.3d 620 (9th Cir. 2017) Defendant appeals his conviction for unlawfully killing three grizzly bears in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The killing of the bears occurred on May 27, 2014 at defendant's residence in Ferndale, Montana ("bear country" as the court described). In the morning, defendant discovered bears had killed over half of his chickens maintained in a coop. Later that evening, the bears returned, heading toward the coop. Defendant's children, who were playing outside at the time, headed inside and defendant proceeded to scare the bears away with his truck. Later that night, the bears returned and were shot by defendant. According to testimony by enforcement officers, defendant gave two different accounts of what happened that night. Ultimately, defendant was charged for killing the bears in violation of the ESA and convicted by a magistrate judge after raising an unsuccessful self-defense argument. On appeal, defendant argued: (1) he should have been tried by a jury; (2) the magistrate judge did not correctly identify the elements of his offense, and that error was not harmless; and (3) the case should be remanded for a trial by jury in the interest of justice. With regard to (1), that he was entitled to a jury trial because the offense was serious, rather than petty, the appellate court rejected the argument. The possibility of a five-year probation term and $15,000 restitution did not transform the crime, which had a maximum 6-month imprisonment, into a serious offense. On the second and third arguments, the court agreed that magistrate erroneously relied on a self-defense provision from a federal assault case that required the "good faith belief" to be objectively reasonable. The court held that the "good faith" requirement for § 1540(b)(3) should be based on a defendant's subjective state of mind. Then, the ultimate question becomes whether that subjective good faith belief was reasonably held in good faith. Said the Court, "[u]nder the Endangered Species Act, the reasonableness of a belief that an endangered animal posed a threat is likewise strong evidence of whether the defendant actually held that belief in good faith." As a result, the appellate court found the error by the magistrate in rejecting defendant's self-defense claim was not harmless. As to whether defendant is entitled to a jury trial on remand, the court found that the outcome of the prior proceedings conducted by a magistrate do not constitute a showing of bias or partiality. Thus, he is not entitled to trial by jury. The conviction was vacated and proceedings remanded.
United States v. Univ. of Neb. at Kearney 940 F. Supp. 2d 974, 975 (D. Neb. 2013). This case considers whether student housing at the University of Nebraska–Kearney (UNK) is a “dwelling” within the meaning of the FHA. The plaintiff had a service dog (or therapy dog as the court describes it) trained to respond to her anxiety attacks. When she enrolled and signed a lease for student housing (an apartment-style residence about a mile off-campus), her requests to have her service dog were denied, citing UNK's "no pets" policy for student housing. The United States, on behalf of plaintiff, filed this suit alleging that UNK's actions violated the FHA. UNK brought a motion for summary judgment alleging that UNK's student housing is not a "dwelling" covered by the FHA. Specifically, UNK argues that students are "transient visitors" and the student housing is not residential like other temporary housing (migrant housing, halfway houses, etc.) and more akin to jail. However, this court was not convinced, finding that "UNK's student housing facilities are clearly 'dwellings' within the meaning of the FHA."
United States v. Sandia 188 F.3d 1215 (10th Cir 1999)

This case was vacated by the Tenth Circuit in the Hardman order.  Defendant in this case sold golden eagle skins to undercover agents in New Mexico.  On appeal, defendant contended that the district court failed to consider the facts under a RFRA analysis.  The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding that defendant never claimed that his sale of eagle parts was for religious purposes and that the sale of eagle parts negates a claim of religious infringement on appeal.  For further discussion on religious challenges to the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion.

United States v. Robinson Slip Copy, 2017 WL 806655 (D. Neb. Mar. 1, 2017)

In this case, defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to launder money after the defendant’s vehicle was searched by law enforcement during a traffic stop. During the stop, the police officer used a service dog while searching the vehicle. The defendants argued that any evidence gained by the police officer be suppressed on the grounds that the search of the vehicle was not constitutional. Specifically, the defendants argued that the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to use the service dog while searching the vehicle. Ultimately, the court found that the search by the police officer and his service dog did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights because the police officer had reasonable suspicion to search the vehicle. The court focused on the fact that the officer had legally stopped the vehicle and while talking to the driver and passengers he had established a reasonable suspicion that the defendants were transporting drugs. Once the police officer had a reasonable suspicion that the vehicle was transporting drugs, the police officer was legally allowed to use the service dog to search the vehicle. As a result, the court held that none of the evidence found during the search should be suppressed for violating the defendant’s constitutional rights. 

United States v. Place 462 US 696 (1983)

This case addressed issues relating to searches and seizures and violations of Fourth Amendment rights.

United States v. Mitchell 553 F.2d 996 (1977)

This appeal turns on whether the Marine Mammal Protection Act ("MMPA"), and related regulations, apply to an American citizen taking dolphins within the territorial waters of a foreign sovereign state. The defendant-appellant, Jerry Mitchell, is an American citizen convicted of violating the Act by capturing 21 dolphins within the three-mile limit of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The court held that the criminal prohibitions of the MMPA do not reach conduct in the territorial waters of a foreign sovereignty and reversed the conviction.

United States v. McKittrick 142 F.3d 1170 (9th Cir. 1998)

Defendant McKittrick shot and killed a wolf in Montana.  Defendant claimed that the federal government's importing of wolves from Canada violated the Endangered Species Act because that Act required that imported "experimental populations" had to be "wholly separate" from any other populations of the same species.  McKittrick claimed that because there had been lone wolf sightings in the area before the wolves were brought from Canada to the Yellowstone region, the new population was not "wholly separate" from an existing population.  The court held that the regulations importing the wolves from Canada were valid because a few lone wolves do not constitute a "population", and that therefore defendant was guilty of unlawfully taking a wolf.

United States v. March 2004 WL 2283777 (9th Cir. Idaho)

Defendant violated the Lacey Act by presenting false information to gain a hunting permit.  He was convicted in United States District Court for the District of Idaho.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court decision holding the District Court and Tribal Courts have concurrent jurisdiction over Indians for violations of the Lacey Act.

United States v. Kum 309 F.Supp.2d 1084 (E.D. Wis. 2004)

Defendant convicted for conspiracy to smuggle endangered wildlife into the United States.  Government moved for upward departure from sentencing range.  Held:  Court would not depart upward to reflect cruel treatment of animals (other holdings generally unrelated).

United States v. Kilpatrick 347 F.Supp.2d 693 (D. Neb. 2004)

Two hunters were convicted of violating the Lacey Act after they hunted on a federal wildlife refuge, killed a deer and transported the carcass out-of-state.  The trial court imposed sentences of probation and fines.  The District Court affirmed the conviction and sentences holding they were reasonable.

United States v. Kent State University Slip Copy, 2016 WL 5107207 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 20, 2016)

In this case, the United States Government brought an action against Kent State University alleging that the University’s failure to have any policy in place that would allow for the University to consider emotional support animals violated the Fair Housing Act. The parties resolved their differences in the form of a consent decree and asked the court to approve the decree. The court approved the consent decree but suggested that the parties make a few additions to the decree. The first suggestion that the court made was to specify what type of qualifications were necessary to make someone a “qualified third-party” for the purpose of making a statement to the University about an individuals need for an emotional support animal. Secondly, the court suggested that the University begin reviewing the logistics of how the University would manage having animals in its housing and how the animals would be properly cared for. Lastly, the court urged the University to look at whether or not the University offered sufficient break times between classes so that a student would have enough time to check on the animal and ensure that the animal was not neglected on a routine basis.

United States v. Hughes 626 F.2d 619 (9th Cir. 1980)

The defendant had adopted 109 wild horses through the federal Adopt-a-Horse program, whereby excess wild horses were adopted out to private individuals under the stipulation that the horses would be treated humanely and not used for commercial purposes.  The defendant was charged under the criminal provisions of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and with conversion of government property after he sold a number of the adopted horses to slaughter.  At trial, the defendant argued that he could not be found guilty of conversion because the federal government did not have a property interest in the horses, as the power to regulate wild horses on public lands does not equate to an ownership interest in the horses by the federal government.  The court held that, regardless of whether the WFRHBA intended to create an ownership interest in wild horses, the government has a property interest in wild horses that it has captured, corralled, and loaned out.  

United States v. Hess 829 F.3d 700 (8th Cir. 2016) This case stems from a United States Fish and Wildlife Service's investigation into illegal trafficking of rhinoceros horns and ivory called "Operation Crash." Defendant James Hess, a taxidermist in Maquoketa, Iowa, agreed to sell a pair of lack rhinoceros horns in 2011 to another individual involved in the trafficking operation. As a result of his role, he was charged with one count of Lacey Act Trafficking for knowingly engaging in conduct involving the sale and purchase of wildlife with a market value exceeding $350 that was transported and sold in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Hess was ultimately sentenced to 27 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. On appeal, Hess first argued that the District Court made an “unsustainable finding on the record presented” when it stated that Hess "helped establish a market for these black rhino horns, and that is a serious offense against the planet." Because Hess failed to object at sentencing, this issue was reviewed for plain error. This court found no plain error, as the record supported the statement that Hess' action contributed to furthering a market for black rhinoceros horns. As to defendant's argument that his sentence was unreasonable, the court found that he failed to overcome the presumption of reasonableness in his bottom of the guidelines sentencing range. The judgment of the district court was affirmed.
United States v. Hardman 260 F.3d 1199 (10th Cir. 2001)

This is an order vacating the opinions issued in Wilgus , Saenz , and Hardman .  The Tenth Circuit requested the attorneys in the above cases to brief the issues outlined by the court.  For further discussion regarding religious challenges to the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act .

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