Tony Eliseuson is one of ALDF's volunteer attorney members. He is a litigator in Chicago at the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP. Tony actively follows animal law litigation and legislation around the country.
I am very
excited and honored to have the opportunity to join the current group
of authors on Animal Legal Defense Fund’s blog! Given that this is my
first post here, I wanted to briefly introduce myself and talk about
how I came to be involved with ALDF.
I have always been an animal-friendly person, but I am a fairly recent convert to the animal welfare cause. My first real exposure to animal law and animal welfare issues was through another associate at my law firm, who is active in animal welfare causes. As we were working on another case, we would periodically discuss animal law issues. She would also send me information and articles on animal welfare issues, in particular on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) and related issues.
Her passion for this subject rubbed off on me, and I began reading more and more about animal law issues. This ultimately led to my decision to seek out pro bono work, including joining ALDF’s excellent volunteer attorney network. In case you are not familiar with this program, the ALDF volunteer attorney network includes a membership component and also provides a large variety of resources to attorneys who are interested in animal law. You can find more information about the program here.
Through ALDF’s volunteer attorney network, I was put in contact with Pam Hart, the director of that program, who provided me with a great deal of information and insights on these topics. For example, I was interested in starting an animal law class at a local law school in Chicago, and Pam quickly provided me with an excellent case book and other materials to help me start that process.
Additionally, I had co-written two articles for the American Bar Association’s (ABA) animal law section’s newsletter regarding the litigation relating to the Chicago Foie Gras Ordinance, which bans the sale of foie gras in Chicago restaurants. The Ordinance was challenged by a Chicago restaurant and a restaurant industry association on dormant Commerce Clause grounds (and other grounds). The City successfully moved to dismiss the complaint, and the plaintiffs appealed that decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. (I will discuss the litigation in more detail in a post in the near future).
I reached out to Pam Hart to see if ALDF would be interested in attempting to file an amicus brief in support of the City of Chicago with the Seventh Circuit. Pam put me in contact with Joyce Tischler and the two of them agreed that the ALDF should try to file such a brief. I therefore had the opportunity to draft an amicus brief for ALDF. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) the plaintiffs opposed our amicus brief, and the Seventh Circuit, which disfavors such briefs, refused to allow us leave to file the brief. A copy of the brief that was submitted to the Court and served on the litigants can be found here. (PDF)
I am still very proud of that brief, even though it is not an official part of the record in the case. One of the attorneys for the City of Chicago was kind enough to reach out to me and indicate that he thought it was an excellent brief, and that he enjoyed reading it. So hopefully it will provide the City with some fodder for oral argument (if the Seventh Circuit orders oral argument).
Drafting the brief also had other positive effects. For example, many of the attorneys and staff members at my law firm have reached out to me to offer their assistance on future work for ALDF after seeing this matter in our daily new matter list. In fact, I received a very kind note from two of our attorneys in our Charlotte office who had done work for ALDF at a prior firm investigating puppy mills for potential litigation under a state statute that allowed private citizens to bring suit to enforce animal welfare laws.
So I am very hopeful that my work for ALDF on this amicus brief will not only benefit the City in the Chicago Foie Gras Ordinance litigation, but will also serve as a catalyst for my colleagues to perform more pro bono work for ALDF in the future. For any other attorneys would like to know more about ALDF’s pro bono activities, I would highly recommend becoming an ALDF volunteer attorney member, it only takes a few minutes to fill out the form to join, which can be found here.
I look forward to sharing more posts with everyone soon, should anyone wish to contact me they should feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When news of a fistfight between two lawyers (not their clients mind you, but the attorneys—the ones who had the discipline, foresight and maturity to knuckle down and earn not just a college degree, but also a law degree) was recently reported in the local news, I got to thinking about the role that the trial bench plays in establishing the level of professionalism in the local bar. In the case noted above, the judge hearing the matter declined to hold either (or both) combatants in contempt of court for their conduct. Moreover, the judge is apparently unwilling to report either attorney to the state bar disciplinary board. I can’t help but wonder if the judge would have opted to pursue the same "head in the sand" strategy if the fight had been between the two clients rather than the opposing attorneys. If not, how can this judge’s choices be characterized as anything other than an enabling double standard?
Weak judges beget poor performance by the attorneys who practice before them. From an animal law practitioner’s perspective, even more troubling is the fact that weak judges often fail to follow the law, look for corners to cut and seek ways to appease both sides of a case in an effort to avoid controversy or scrutiny from an appellate court. For the creative professionals working within the justice system to improve the plight of a vulnerable class of beings, such a dynamic is just one more (unnecessary) hurdle to clear before the merits of the case are ever squarely addressed.
Ironically, judicial elections tend to generate very little voter interest despite the fact that these men and women adorned in black robes wield an immense amount of power capable of impacting the lives of many an apathetic voter. Perhaps even more significant, yet obscure, is the role each governor plays in all of this. Most trial judges first ascend to the bench via gubernatorial appointment and then are, later, formally elected into office as the incumbent. This reality makes a governor’s judicial selection criteria a highly relevant aspect of his or her own campaign platform. It is quite rare, however, for a candidate’s judicial selection methods to become a central issue in a gubernatorial race. The point to this is simply to urge you to pay close attention to the selection of your trial judges and encourage the skilled attorneys in your community to take what often amounts to a substantial pay cut and give something back to their community by becoming a trial court judge. The quality of the trial bench has a profound impact on our ability to advance the interests of our clients, the animals.
The Michigan Law Review’s companion journal First Impressions this week published an online symposium on agriculture animals and agriculture law. Be sure to check out this insightful debate and read what the experts say about the laws that protect farm animals.
Here's a summary of what you'll find:
The Humane Society of the United States’ Vice President of Government Relations Nancy Perry and Senior Attorney Peter Brandt decry the inadequacy of USDA regulations in protecting animals from abuse. Highlighting the recent media coverage of abuse at the Hallmark Meat Packing plant in California, they argue that states should enforce their animal cruelty laws against the agricultural animal industry, and that protecting animals requires a new and robust federal framework.
University of Michigan Harry Burns Hutchins Professor of Law Joseph Vining identifies a particular advantage of criminal sanctions: that a corporation will regulate agricultural practices if it is liable as an entity itself. Corporations have methods and resources that public agencies lack, which will lead to better protections for farmed animals.
Angela J. Geiman, Senior Lawyer for Cargill Meat Solutions Corp, supports applying science-based regulations to the animal agriculture industry. She agrees with approaches that allow academic and industry experts to decide what the definition of a “humane” practice is.
Animal rights attorney and President of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights Steven M. Wise likens current agricultural animal practices to human slavery, arguing that economic interests that perpetuated the institution of slavery resemble the contemporary industry opposition to animal rights. He argues that animals have fundamental rights based on the practical autonomy that they possess as beings, rather than as things.
Professor Neil D. Hamilton, Director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake Law School, suggests that litigation cannot address concerns about animal cruelty in agricultural settings. The divide between animal rights and animal welfare is a broader cultural phenomenon that a judicial decision cannot decide.
Colorado State University Professor of Philosophy, Animal Sciences and Biomedical Sciences Bernard Rollin catalogs five factors that demonstrate the necessity of shifting to a framework that recognizes animal rights. People now think of animals as having rights as a result of these five changes.
University of Michigan J.D. candidate Kyle H. Landis-Marinello demonstrates the severe harm that current agricultural animal practices cause the environment. He argues that enforcing animal cruelty laws in the agricultural animal industry will therefore yield significant environmental benefits.
We want to thank the many of you who made donations to support the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s campaign for dairy farm reform. As always, we’re moved by your generosity.
As we wrote last week, Animal Legal Defense Fund is at a crucial turning point in its campaign for dairy farm reform as we take the Free Baby Mendes campaign to the Supreme Court of California.
Country music icon Willie Nelson has joined our campaign to stop the cramped, inhumane conditions calves at Mendes Calf Ranch are force to endure. Such intense confinement violates state anti-cruelty laws, which require that animals be provided with adequate exercise area.
We need your financial support to continue this fight against the factory farm industry’s cruel and illegal forced confinement of thousands of innocent animals.
On June 19, 2006, ALDF first filed a complaint in Tulare County Superior Court against Mendes Calf Ranch for isolating and confining newborn calves in crates.
Located in Tipton, California, Mendes houses calves for approximately 80 different dairy producers. After birth, baby calves are almost immediately taken away from their mothers and shipped to the facility, which houses as many as 12,000 calves at one time.
Country music icon Willie Nelson last month joined over 22,000 supporters who are pushing for dairy farm reform by signing on to ALDF’s Free Baby Mendes campaign. Willie Nelson has written letters to Land O’Lakes and Challenge Dairy, two of the major corporations that use milk from calves raised at California’s Mendes Calf Ranch.
We are now appealing this lawsuit in the Supreme Court of California and we urgently need your help to continue to push forward on this landmark court case!
Your support and generosity will help make a difference for these baby calves! Thank you for your efforts to help Free Baby Mendes.
Cotati: what the heck is it?
"Cotati" is not a contagious disease, an exotic fish, or (to my knowledge) a Japanese epithet. Rather, it’s the answer to the question, "Where exactly are you guys?," one I’m often asked when chatting about the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Yup, we’re a national organization with more than 110,000 members, student chapters in more than 100 law schools, and a one-of-a-kind network of attorneys reaching across the nation--and our headquarters office is in a town no one’s ever heard of, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. It’s a nice little town, with its very own farmers market, dive bar, and cops who will nail you for going 27 in a 25 zone.
In addition to our Cotati headquarters, we also have a very lovely office in Portland, Oregon, which requires far less geographical explanation. Like lots of city-dwellers, we started out many years ago closer to the San Francisco action and, as property prices rose, gradually migrated north. In terms of animal law, of course the action is now right here, in Cotati. Mark your map!
Yes, we are a dog-friendly office. Yes, we have vegan donuts at our staff meetings (they’ve proved to be much more popular than sliced fruit). If you were a law student fantasizing about dedicating your career to the animals, it might be exactly what you’d picture. If you are a laws student thinking "sign me up!" I encourage you to get involved with your Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter, start one if your school does not have one already, and give us a holler in a few years. It’s lovely here in April--everything is green, there’s wild fennel and blackberry bushes all over the place, and it’s about 65 degrees outside. Just delightful. Golden Gate Bridge--bah! Who needs it!