Circuit Debates Sweep of Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

, The National Law Journal

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Members of Everglades Earth First demonstrating against animal testing done by Scripps Florida in Jupiter, Fla.
Members of Everglades Earth First demonstrating against animal testing done by Scripps Florida in Jupiter, Fla.

“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 squalters@alm.com.

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