Animal Law

Animal rights groups to pay attorney fees after losing suit against Ringling Bros. producer

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Animal rights groups that sued the producer of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will have to pay attorney fees, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington, D.C., did not yet decide how much is owed, the National Law Journal reports. The circus producer, Feld Entertainment Inc., says it has spent more than $20 million defending itself in the suit claiming that the circus was abusing its elephants.

Sullivan had dismissed the suit in 2009, finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that another plaintiff, an elephant trainer, was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness.”

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) applauded the new development in an editorial. “Losers pay in Judge Emmet Sullivan’s courtroom, at least when those losers bring a ‘frivolous, unreasonable and groundless’ lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act,” the newspaper said.

Sullivan also said one lawyer and her law firm are responsible for part of the fees because they helped the elephant trainer prepare a discovery response stating he wasn’t paid by the animal rights groups, the NLJ says. At the time, he had already received money from the groups.

The lawyer is Katherine Meyer and her firm is Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal. When contacted by the NLJ, Meyer pointed to a declaration filed with the court that said she had no intention to mislead and the trainer didn’t consider the payments to be formal compensation. She also said lawyers for the trainer had offered to provide information about the payments under a confidentiality agreement.

Sullivan’s ruling doesn’t affect one plaintiff, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The group agreed to pay Feld $9.3 million in December, the Wall Street Journal says.

Feld has filed a separate suit against the animal rights groups that claims they engaged in racketeering when they paid the trainer.

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