federal judge dismisses lawsuit challenging the animal enterprise terrorism act

by Tim Phillips

Yesterday U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro dismissed the lawsuit five animal rights activists filed to challenge the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which criminalizes protected First Amendment speech. Judge Tauro decided that the activists did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the 2006 law. The activists’ attorneys say they will appeal. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights press release,

The judge’s ruling was based on a narrow interpretation of the AETA as criminalizing only property destruction and threats, despite the law’s broad prohibition on causing an animal enterprise any loss of property, which is generally understood to include the loss of profit.

The AETA was first used on February 19, 2009, when four activists were charged under the law for allegedly participating in threatening demonstrations at the homes of University of California researchers who conducted tests on animals. (Full disclosure: I assisted the activists’ attorneys as support counsel.) U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte dismissed the charges on July 12, 2010; but other activists charged under the AETA have been less successful.