Ringling Brothers Decision — Justice Denied

David Cassuto

The decision is in.  It’s a debacle.  Read about it here.  I’ll have more to say when I’ve studied the opinion.

9 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pace Law Library, Animal Blawg. Animal Blawg said: #animalrights Ringling Brothers Decision — Justice Denied http://bit.ly/6JhDEC […]

  2. I don’t know anything about the case, but I can’t get past that last comment; another example of a lawyer using absolutely bizarre, counter-intuitive statements to distract from disturbing facts:

    “This ruling represents a victory for the elephants and a win for the U.S. Constitution because it reinforces that the federal court is no place to entertain a philosophical debate about whether elephants should be in the circus,” said Michelle Pardo, an attorney representing Feld Entertainment.

    Very cynical, even for one in her position. I hope her legal arguments were much stronger than this. A win for elephants? Is Feld using their presence in the circus to spearhead a campaign for conservation and protection? Is there a single human who would take that comment at face value? And please; any standard excluding arguments for being ‘philosophical’ would be void for vagueness. What on earth is she talking about? Aargh.

  3. without reading the 57-page decision, i’m curious as to whether anyone has hope for getting around sullivan and the limits on standing for similar filings.

  4. I have not had the opportunity to read the ruling. If the judge bottomed dismissal on standing doctrine then this case is no different from any other in which a plaintiff can not meet the essential constitutional elements of standing: injury in fact directly traceable to the actions of the defendant for which a judicial remedy is available.

    That this doctrine leaves those eager for a trial on the merits rejected and dejected is hardly novel.

    There are several possibilities, none of which can be achieved by a court. Obviously the political avenue permits regulation of the treatment of circus animals or even their exclusion.

    And it is possible, subject to a certain constitutional challenge, to enlarge the parameters of standing in certain discrete matters to permit actions to be brought by entities currently excluded by application of the standing doctrine.

  5. I think we all need to read the decision. However, at bottom, standing doctrine has little to do with the Constitution. It is all about judicial discretion — often very poorly exercised.

  6. I agree that standing has often been a mask by the courts to dispose of an issue on the merits without examining those merits through a full adversarial process-Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, being a prime (and very personal) example.

    That said the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts to cases or controversies and standing is indubitably a cornerstone of a genuine dispute. However passionate one may feel about a particular issue from abortion to zebras, Separation of Powers values underlie the legitimacy of standing doctrine. In this instance it appears to have been properly applied.

  7. The Constitution says nothing about standing and does not define cases or controversies. Certainly there is a need to define federal jurisdiction per the Constitution’s vague directive but that does not mean that standing as such is constitutionally mandated. The doctrine itself (particularly the so-called “injury in fact” notion) is completely incoherent and attempts to apply it consistently have been an ongoing failure. And last, I’m not sure on what you base your conclusion about its application in this case.

  8. I made it clear that I haven’t read the judge’s opinion so I do not know if I will conclude that standing was correctly analyzed.

    The Supreme Court has certainly held in a number of instances that standing has both a constitutional and a prudential basis. Of course the prudential plank can allow and has led to interpretive mischief.

    The concept of jurisdiction over parties which includes standing predates 1787 and was and remained part of common law procedure (and later Equity).

    While ripeness has been changed to meet evolving needs, e.g., Declaratory Judgment actions, standing is an important gateway to the courts. That there have been many misapplications does not negate the vitality of the doctrine.

    But, again, the admittedly hard road to dealing with the treatment of circus animals is the legislative process or, if anti-cruelty laws are being violated through effective enforcement. This is not a fecund area for private litigation.

  9. We are apparently talking about 2 different things. Standing doctrine, as such, is a twentieth century phenomenon that includes the well worn 3-prong litany of injury-in-fact, causation and redressability. The Supreme Court has tried on many occasions to clarify how that works and has crafted its “prudential” line of cases as a tool to do so. Those attempts have been entirely unsuccessful.
    And, I can only assume from your last comment that you believe the ESA is poorly drafted, since Congress saw fit to include a private right of action, as it did with most major environmental laws.
    I have now read the opinion and will post on it shortly. In my view, it is a poster child for the shortcomings I have been discussing.

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