Circuit Debates Sweep of Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
“What about the notion that what you are seeking is an advisory opinion, long before the government has taken a position on application of this statute to particular conduct?” Lynch said.
The Supreme Court “allows over-breadth challenges in this context,” Meeropol said.
Kayatta grilled government lawyer Matthew Collette, an attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Division, about the plaintiffs’ argument that the law’s property-damage language would allow companies and individuals targeted for protest to file lawsuits seeking lost profits.
Collette said the government is “interpreting the statute as a whole” to determine that “lost profits does not include business loss.”
“Are you able to give the plaintiffs any assurance that tomorrow there won’t be a new policy, or indeed a new attorney general, who takes exactly the contrary interpretation of the statute that you’re advocating we take?” Kayatta asked.
“I’m not sure I have the pay grade to offer binding commitments,” Collette said. “But our position at this point is the only reasonable interpretation of the statute is [that] it does not criminalize lawful, peaceful, picketing or dissemination of information merely because that causes a loss of profits to an animal enterprise.”
Sheri Qualters can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.