The Making of an ALDF Pro Bono Attorney

Posted by Tony Eliseuson, ALDF Volunteer Attorney Member on April 16, 2008

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.

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.

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)

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

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