Monday, October 17, 2011

Court Upholds Ban On Polar Bear “Trophy” Imports

Today, in the long-running litigation over protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the federal district court rejected four lawsuits by sport-hunting groups challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s prohibition on importing the body parts of polar bears killed in  Canadian “sport hunts.”   In these lawsuits the plaintiffs acknowledge that the polar bear requires ESA protection because the species’ sea-ice habitat is being destroyed by global climate change.  Nonetheless, the hunters argued that the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), pursuant to which certain of these imports had been permitted prior to the species’ ESA listing, trumps these threats, and that imports must continue to be allowed.

Rejecting these arguments, the district court ruled that, by virtue of the ESA listing, the polar bear became a “depleted” species under the MMPA, and consequently neither the MMPA nor the ESA allow these imports to continue.  The Court also ruled that the import ban applies to any polar bear body part in Canada when the species was listed, and thus that individuals who had killed polar bears in Canada prior to the listing, but had not yet completed the import process, are also subject to the ban.  The decision is available here

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Summary Judgment Brief Filed Over FOIA Fees

On behalf of the nation's oldest and most prominent auto safety organization - the Center for Auto Safety - we recently filed for summary judgment in a suit challenging the Treasury Department's decision to demand exorbitant fees before it would produce emails under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Center, the driving force behind the widespread adoption of lemon laws and major recalls of defective cars, seeks government email correspondence that would shed light on the government-led, taxpayer-financed restructuring of the two automotive giants, Chrysler and GM, which left personal injury victims without any recourse for injuries resulting from defective automobiles against the "New Chrysler" and "New GM." Rather than simply providing the Center with a disc containing the electronic documents or granting the Center a "public interest" waiver of duplication fees as provided by FOIA, the government denied access to the Center by assessing photocopying fees in excess of $33,000 for paper copies of the records. Our brief argues that because the government's position creates an unlawful barrier to access under FOIA, the court should order the government to provide all of the responsive documents to the Center without charge.