News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722
  • Illinois Environmental News Update

    Posted by on December 15, 2011
    Here's your Illinois environmental news update for this morning from across the internet: (1) Settlement of lawsuit against Metropolitan Water Reclamation District formalizes deadlines to finish sections of the Deep Tunnel, but the entire system will not be completed until 2029. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-legal-settlement-to-force-completion-of-deep-tunnel-20111214...
  • U.S. EPA Publishes Spring 2011 Regulatory Agenda and Provides Glimpse of New Regulations

    Posted by on July 7, 2011
    On July 7, 2011, U.S. EPA published in the Federal Register its 2011 Spring Regulatory Agenda. This document is interesting because it provides a look at U.S. EPA’s goals and how those goals are being met through the Agency’s regulations. The Regulatory Agenda identified “the five over-arching strategic goals and five cross-cutting fundamental strategies” for how U.S. EPA approaches its wo...
  • Illinois Appellate Court Allows Claims Alleging that Coal Mine Waste Contaminated Community Drinking Water Supply

    Posted by on October 23, 2010
    The Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District, recently issued an opinion in Citizens Opposing Pollution v. ExxonMobil Coal U.S.A., Case No. 05-09-0207, which concerned a coal mine owned by Monterey Coal (a division of ExxonMobil Coal U.S.A.) and located near Albers, Illinois.  From 1977 until August 1996, when the mine closed, a coal preparation plant and two coal refuse and slurry dispos...

Connect with the Illinois
Environmental Law Blog

Newsletter

Events

  • No events

Sponsored Links

Helpful Links

    Facebook Feed

    The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the federal government’s ability to criminally prosecute environmental activists who destroy property under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (“AETA”).

    In United States v. Johnson, the defendants travelled from Los Angeles, California to a mink farm in Morris, Illinois. The mink farm was in the business of breeding, raising, and selling minks to fur manufacturers. At the mink farm, the defendants released approximately 2000 minks from their cages. They also removed portions of the fence surrounding the mink farm to help the minks escape, and they destroyed the minks’ breeding cards, which were needed to sell the minks to a furrier. In addition, they poured caustic substances on two farm vehicles and spray-painted the words “Liberation is Love” on a barn. The vandalism caused between $120,000 and $200,000 worth of damage. The defendants then began traveling to a fox farm in Roanoke, Illinois, which bred foxes to sell to fur manufacturers. They planned to damage the fox farm as well, but they were arrested by local law enforcement before they arrived at the fox farm. The defendants were charged in state court with possession of burglary tools and were convicted. They were sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.

    Then, the defendants were charged with violating the AETA by the federal government. Count I of the indictment alleged that they conspired to travel in interstate commerce for the purpose of damaging and interfering with the operation of an animal enterprise, and in connection with that purpose, damaged the property of an animal enterprise. Count II alleged that the defendants damaged real and personal property used by an animal enterprise. The defendants moved to dismiss the indictment against them, asserting that the AETA was facially overbroad, was unconstitutionally vague, and violated substantive due process because it labeled persons who committed the act as “terrorists”. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss.

    The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling that rejected all of the defendants’ arguments. In particular, the defendants suggested that the AETA prohibited advocacy that caused damage to only intangible property such as profits or goodwill. The court rejected that argument and held that the AETA prohibited destruction of or damage to tangible items and property owned by the animal enterprise. In fact, the court looked at the legislative history of the AETA, which reinforced the conclusion that it was not intended to criminalize speech or expressive conduct that caused damage only to the animal enterprise’s profits or goodwill. Several legislators made statements indicating that, while the statute was being passed to combat the violence being perpetrated against animal enterprises as well as people and entities connected to animal enterprises, Congress was aware of the importance of protecting the First Amendment right to engage in lawful protest against animal enterprises. In particular, the court looked at a speech by Senator Feinstein stating: “I fully recognize that peaceful picketing and public demonstrations against animal testing should be recognized as part of our valuable and sacred right to free expression. For this reason, all conduct protected by the First Amendment is expressly excluded from the scope of this legislation. This law effectively protects the actions of the law-abiding protester while carefully distinguishing the criminal activity of extremists.” In summary, the court found that the text of the statute as well as the legislative history made clear that the statute does not criminalize speech or expressive conduct that causes damage only to intangible profits or goodwill of an animal enterprise.

    The Seventh Circuit had an easy task in this case, deciding to interpret the statute to criminalize destructive conduct but keeping the door open to reasonable protests that do not harm private property. Environmental activists need to be aware of this line in the sand that has been drawn by Congress and the courts.
    ... See MoreSee Less

    1 week ago  ·  

    .

Categories