Federal Judge Allows Circus’s Racketeering Suit Against Animal Rights Groups
Posted Jul 13, 2012 5:00 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A federal judge is allowing a racketeering case filed by the parent company of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus against a coalition of animal rights groups.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled earlier this week on behalf of corporate parent Feld Entertainment Inc., according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. Feld’s suit claims the animal rights coalition violated the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act when it paid a former Ringling Brothers trainer who was a plaintiff along with the groups in a prior suit against the circus alleging that elephants were mistreated.
Sullivan dismissed the prior suit in 2009, saying the trainer was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness” whose only source of income during the litigation was provided by the animal advocacy organizations.
Sullivan’s July 9 opinion (PDF) said litigation activities alone can’t support a RICO claim. In this case, however, Feld is alleging an entire lawsuit was based on bribery of the lead plaintiff and witness, the judge wrote.