Archive for the ‘Judge R. Michael Caldwell’ Tag
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Re-posting from ALDF:
Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on April 26th, 2013
Yesterday, April 25th, 2013, the Louisiana Court of Appeal issued its long-awaited opinion in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. State of Louisiana, holding that Michael Sandlin is ineligible for a permit to confine Tony the Tiger in a cage at the Tiger Truck Stop.
Although the court held that ALDF lacked standing to be a plaintiff in the case, it nevertheless confirmed that our clients—Louisiana residents and taxpayers—do have standing to challenge illegal actions by the government, in this case the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
In ruling on the merits, the court agreed with ALDF’s argument that Michael Sandlin cannot receive a grandfather permit to continue to keep Tony because Sandlin does not meet the legal requirements for such a permit. As the court put it:
The record establishes that on August 15, 2006, Tony was not owned by Michael Sandlin; rather, he was owned by Tiger Truck Stop. Additionally, on August 15, 2006, the ownership and possession of Tony by Tiger Truck Stop and the possession by Michael Sandlin in Iberville Parish was in violation of a local ordinance, and thus, illegal. Although that local ordinance was amended in 2009 retroactive to August 15, 2006, the amendment to the ordinance did not change the fact that on August 15, 2006, neither Tiger Truck Stop nor Michael Sandlin legally possessed or legally owned Tony. Only an individual who legally possessed an exotic cat (such as a tiger) and who could prove legal ownership of that exotic cat is entitled to a permit for that cat. Accordingly, that part of the judgment of the trial court granting a final/permanent injunction against DWF, enjoining it from issuing any new permits to Michael Sandlin and/or Tiger Truck Stop for the tiger (“Tony” microchip #477E201A4C) now located at Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish is affirmed.
The decision marks a significant step towards Tony’s freedom, as the second-highest court in Louisiana has confirmed that the Department erred when it issued Sandlin a permit. Sandlin’s lawyer has said she intends to seek rehearing of the Court of Appeal’s decision, as well as review by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Sandlin also has his own lawsuit to invalidate the state’s big cat ban. But rest assured ALDF will fight every step of the way to make sure Tony ends up in a reputable sanctuary. We still have a long road ahead, but we’ve cleared a major hurdle and have earned this moment of celebration.
Update From The Animal Legal Defense Fund:
April 25, 2013: On April 25, 2013 the Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling in ALDF’s case against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Michael Sandlin a permit to keep and exhibit Tony. The Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Caldwell, holding that Sandlin is ineligible for a permit to keep Tony. With pro bono assistance from Baker Donelson, ALDF will continue to fight on behalf of Tony and the individual plaintiffs involved.
By Bill Lodge
Advocate staff writer
April 26, 2013
Tony, the 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger, cannot continue to be housed in an exhibit at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, a three-judge panel of the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled Thursday in Baton Rouge.
But an attorney for truck stop owner Michael Sandlin said Tony will not be moved to a new home soon.
“We are going to file for a rehearing at the 1st Circuit. If we lose on rehearing, we’ll be filing an appeal with the Louisiana Supreme Court,” said Jennifer Treadway Morris, Sandlin’s attorney.
Members of the 1st Circuit panel were Circuit Judges J.E. “Duke” Welch and Randolph H. Parro, as well as retired Judge William F. Kline Jr., who serves on the appellate bench by special appointment of the state’s Supreme Court.
The 20-page decision written by Welch upheld a November 2011 judgment by 19th Judicial District Judge Michael Caldwell, who ruled a 2006 state law bars the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries from renewing Sandlin’s permit to house Tony at the truck stop exhibit off Interstate 10.
The appellate panel, however, overturned Caldwell’s decision to allow the nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund to intervene in the civil suit on the side of four Louisiana residents who wanted Tony, now 12, sent to an accredited wildlife sanctuary.
Those four residents are Warren Triche Jr., Brandi J. Sutten, Jennifer Torquati and John Kelleher.
Matthew G. Liebman, a California-based attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said he does not believe the nonprofit organization will appeal the 1st Circuit’s ruling that it should not have intervened in the litigation.
The most important part of the 1st Circuit’s decision was its agreement with Caldwell that state officials cannot renew the permit that allowed Tony to be kept at the truck stop, Liebman said.
“We see this decision as a victory,” Liebman added. “It looks like Tony is finally going to breathe some fresh air.”
Morris, however, noted that Sandlin has a related civil suit pending before 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark.
Sandlin argues in that suit that a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance should not be allowed to ban ownership of “wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or for exhibition.”
In his suit, Sandlin adds that he has held a federal permit to keep tigers at the truck stop, just off Interstate 10, since 1988. He argues that a parish ordinance cannot ignore federal rules.
Although the case in Clark’s court remains to be decided, Morris said the 1st Circuit’s decision not to grant standing to the California nonprofit organization in Caldwell’s court is a good sign for Sandlin.
“We beat the Animal Legal Defense Fund” in the first case, Morris said. “That’s a big win.”
Click picture for link to video.
BATON ROUGE, La. — This week the State of Louisiana Court of Appeal will hear arguments in the case of the Tiger Truck Stop in Baton Rouge.
Owner Michael Sandlin is fighting to keep a live Bengal tiger named Tony in a cage at the truck stop.
The animal legal defense fund won a ruling against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to keep the tiger.
In 2011, Judge Michael Caldwell ordered wildlife and fisheries to revoke the permit.
The court will take up Sandlin’s appeal on Tuesday.
The Truck Stops Here…
From the stench of fuel to the drone of diesel engines and the isolation of his roadside prison, Tony, a 12 year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger, has endured more than a decade of misery at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has taken to the Louisiana courts to free Tony the Tiger from this truck stop nightmare. We won our lawsuit to prevent Tony’s “owner” Michael Sandlin from renewing his permit, but Sandlin appealed, and we are waiting for the Louisiana Court of Appeal to hear the case. Sandlin subsequently filed his own lawsuit to overturn the state’s ban on big cat ownership. ALDF sought to have the case dismissed and is waiting for the trial court to decide if the suit will move forward.
Sandlin has exploited tigers for over 20 years: buying, breeding, selling, and exhibiting tigers in poor conditions for his own profit. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Sandlin’s truck stop in the past for unsanitary feeding practices; mishandling tigers; and failure to provide veterinary care, shelter from inclement weather, clean drinking water, and knowledgeable employees to care for the tigers. In 2003, Sandlin’s animal welfare violations sparked public outcry, and three tigers were removed to a Tennessee sanctuary. The USDA allowed Sandlin to keep one tiger: Tony. He has been alone ever since.
Life at the truck stop is harmful to an animal with such sensitive hearing and acute sense of smell, says veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, who has cared for captive large cats for nearly two decades. After visiting Tony, she declared he is “in poor condition and needs intervention on his behalf.” In addition to exposure to noise and diesel fumes, Tony is taunted by truck stop visitors. His enclosure lacks adequate enrichment. He has no pool of water to cool off in the blazing heat of the summer. As a result of this stressful confinement, Tony constantly paces in his enclosure, putting him at risk for dangerous and painful veterinary conditions.
His suffering demonstrates the problem of privately-owned tigers, whose numbers exceed that of wild tigers. There are less than 500 Siberian and only 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the wild. In their natural habitat, tigers live alone, travel many miles to hunt, and avoid humans.
ALDF Sues to Have Tony Freed
In 2010, ALDF sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) for unlawfully issuing Sandlin a permit to keep and exhibit Tony. ALDF was joined by several Louisiana residents as co-plaintiffs, including Warren Triche, the state representative who authored the Louisiana state law banning private ownership of tigers. In November 2011, Judge Michael Caldwell ordered LDWF to revoke Sandlin’s permit and prohibited the agency from issuing future permits. Sandlin appealed this decision to the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit. We have briefed the case and are awaiting an oral argument date. Once the court hears our arguments, we will await a final decision. Meanwhile, Sandlin continues to exhibit Tony without a permit.
LDWF publicly stated it intends to enforce Louisiana law when litigation has concluded—although they could seize Tony now, at their discretion. State law bars Sandlin from owning and exhibiting a tiger because he did not legally own Tony when Louisiana’s big cat ban went into effect, and because Sandlin does not live on the premises where Tony is held captive. After all, who would want to live in a truck stop? Not Sandlin… and definitely not Tony.
ALDF Intervenes to Defend Big Cat Law
After losing his permit, Sandlin filed his own lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, the LDWF, and Iberville Parish to overturn the state ban on private possession of big cats. This suit flies in the face of national sentiment, public safety, and animal welfare concerns. After the massacre of 48 exotic animals in Ohio in 2011, state and federal bills (like HR 4122) are being considered to prohibit ownership of big cats. Although ALDF was not named as a defendant in Sandlin’s suit, we successfully petitioned the court to allow us to intervene in the case to support Louisiana’s right to safeguard public safety and the welfare of animals like Tony. LDWF and ALDF each filed exceptions to Sandlin’s case, seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed, and a decision is expected soon.
Next Steps: We Wait While Tony Paces
The world waits with bated breath for the results of ALDF’s suit and of Sandlin’s appeal. Meanwhile Tony remains trapped at the truck stop. ALDF’s legal battle for Tony has drawn support from high profile advocates like Leonardo DiCaprio and True Blood’s Kristin Bauer van Straten and has galvanized activists around the world. The law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, P.C. is providing pro bono assistance.
We are currently waiting for the Louisiana Court of Appeal to hear our case. We are also waiting for the trial court to decide if Sandlin’s suit will move forward. Tony’s fate is tied up in the courts, but ALDF is keeping the pressure on.
We will post updates on Tony’s case as they become available.
NOTE: Article courtesy of Animal Legal Defense Fund. You can leave a comment of thanks to ALDF and support for Tony at the end of this article here: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2233 on ALDF’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AnimalLegalDefenseFund and retweet on Twitter: https://twitter.com/aldf/status/274297585769013248
Let’s continue our positive dedicated advocacy on behalf of Tony. Thank you.
Picture Courtesy S. Zaunbrecher 6.19.2012
Thank you S. Zaunbrecher for sharing this photo of Tony with us.
Tony’s Care2 petition closed on June 14, 2012 with 53,650 signatures.
Tony’s Change.org petition, now at 16,028 remains open.
Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on May 14th, 2012
We at the Animal Legal Defense Fund are committed to doing everything within our power to make sure that Tony finds his way to a reputable, accredited sanctuary where he can live out the rest of his life in an environment that caters to his needs rather than one that exploits him as a profitable spectacle.
To that end, our litigation team has been busy making sure that Louisiana’s big cat ban is defended and enforced. We are currently involved in three separate lawsuits concerning Tony, and with all the various developments, we thought it was time for a big picture overview on where things stand.
The first lawsuit is the one ALDF filed last April to have Michael Sandlin’s tiger permit revoked. In November, Judge Michael Caldwell ruled in our favor, holding that Mr. Sandlin was ineligible for a permit under the state regulations. Judge Caldwell ordered the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke Sandlin’s permit and not issue any new permits. Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop have appealed that decision to the Louisiana Court of Appeal. We are currently waiting for the court to set a briefing schedule, which we expect in the coming months. It’s worth noting that the Department has complied with the court’s order and not issued a new permit to Mr. Sandlin, meaning that Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop continue to possess and exhibit Tony without the required permit.
In an attempt to remedy the Tiger Truck Stop’s open violation of the law, ALDF filed a second lawsuit to force the Department to enforce the state’s wildlife laws and turn Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop over to the District Attorney for prosecution. Unfortunately, earlier this month, Judge Caldwell held that enforcement decisions by an agency are discretionary duties that cannot be compelled by the judiciary, and that our plaintiffs lacked legal standing to bring the case. (Standing is a constant hurdle in animal law cases that limits who can bring a lawsuit. More information on standing is available here and here.) We are still considering our options on whether to appeal the decision. Supporters should understand that the decision in this second case does not undermine our victory in the first case. Judge Caldwell’s original ruling that Mr. Sandlin cannot have a tiger permit still stands, and it is still illegal for Mr. Sandlin to possess and exhibit Tony. This loss means only that we cannot force the Department to enforce the law. The Department has said publicly that it intends to enforce Louisiana law once litigation has concluded. Although that is not the timeline we hoped for (after all, Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are violating the law at this very moment and the Department could seize Tony at any time), we expect the Department will eventually do the job entrusted to it by Louisiana’s citizens: enforce the law and protect wildlife.
The third lawsuit is one filed by Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop against the State of Louisiana, the Department, and Iberville Parish, seeking to invalidate the state ban on private possession of big cats. If successful, the case would not only allow Mr. Sandlin to keep Tony, it could also open the floodgates to captivity for countless other captive wild animals. Mr. Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop did not name ALDF as a party to the suit, but given the high stakes, we insisted on being part of the case. We filed what is called a petition to intervene, which asks the court to allow the intervener into the case with the same rights and opportunity to be heard as the named parties. Although Mr. Sandlin and the truck stop objected to our intervention, Judge Janice Clark held that ALDF had a right to intervene in the case and granted our petition. Interestingly, we are now on the same side as the Department, our adversary in the other two lawsuits. Although we wish they were more proactive in enforcing the ban, both ALDF and the Department want the Louisiana big cat ban upheld. The next step is for our litigation team to file exceptions to Mr. Sandlin’s case and an opposition to his request for an injunction against the big cat ban.
We are optimistic that we will prevail and the court will uphold Louisiana’s right to protect public safety and animal welfare by prohibiting private possession of majestic animals like Tony. Our hope is that once Mr. Sandlin’s case is over, the Department will act quickly to ensure Tony’s removal to a humane sanctuary.
If this sounds complicated and frustratingly slow, that’s because it is. In order to manage large case loads and protect the due process rights of litigants, the legal system may take a while to resolve contentious issues. We too are growing impatient with every extra day Tony spends in captivity at the truck stop, and we are doing everything we can to accelerate his release to a proper sanctuary.
Still have questions about the cases? Post them below and we will answer as best we can.
Tony the truck stop tiger still waits in his cage
Animal Legal Defense Fund
6:30 PM, May. 7, 2012
NEW ORLEANS (WTW) — An animal rights group can join a lawsuit and fight a challenge to a Louisiana law that bars private ownership of big cats, a state district judge ruled Monday.
Judge Janice Clark said the Animal Legal Defense Fund and two Louisiana residents can be parties to a challenge brought by Michael Sandlin, who has kept a tiger for decades at his Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete.
Sandlin contends the law is unconstitutional. He opposed allowing the ALDF and two others to become parties to the suit.
“Upholding Louisiana’s big cat ban will prevent untold harm in the future to other big cats like Tony, who deserve better than a sad life at a roadside truck stop,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF.
Sandlin’s attorney, Jennifer Treadway Morris, said she probably won’t appeal this ruling because it can be part of her appeal if Clark upholds the law.
Tony, a Bengal-Siberian mix, is the eighth tiger in 22 years at the truck stop. Sandlin and the truck stop company — Tony’s legal owner — argue that moving the tiger now would be cruel.
In November, state District Judge Mike Caldwell ordered the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to revoke the permit that let Tiger Truck Stop Inc. keep the tiger at the business.
He also prohibited a new permit, saying the agency had broken its own rule allowing only individuals to own tigers.
The department has appealed the November ruling.
Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger on display at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, on Dec. 2, 2010.
BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
May 05, 2012
A judge refused Thursday to order the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to remove Tony the 550-pound tiger from a Grosse Tete truck stop enclosure where he has been kept for more than a decade.
State District Judge Mike Caldwell cited the separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches of government, and also said the Animal Legal Defense Fund and several other individually named plaintiffs lacked legal standing to try to compel LDWF to take action against the truck stop.
ALDF attorney Erin Pelleteri argued during a hearing that Tiger Truck Stop’s state permit for the Siberian-Bengal tiger expired Dec. 31. She said Michael Sandlin, owner of the Iberville Parish truck stop, is “blatantly’’ violating Louisiana law and endangering the public, and should be prosecuted.
“There is no permit in place. Mr. Sandlin is in violation of the law,’’ Pelleteri argued. “The department is doing nothing.’’
Jennifer Treadway Morris, an attorney for Sandlin and his truck stop, countered that the facility has a federal permit to house the tiger. She also disputed Pelleteri’s safety allegation.
“There is no public safety concern here,’’ Morris told the judge.
Sandlin, who attended the hearing, said afterward he loves tigers.
“I love Tony. I love (LSU’s) Mike the tiger,’’ he said. “The people of Grosse Tete want Tony to stay.’’
LDWF attorney Fred Whitrock argued during the hearing that ALDF and the individual plaintiffs, including Baton Rouge resident Brandi Sutten, have no direct interest in the outcome of the case but are merely morally opposed to Tony being displayed at the truck stop off Interstate 10.
“That is not sufficient for legal standing,’’ he said.
Sutten testified she visits Tony from time to time and finds it “emotionally draining’’ to see a tiger housed near an interstate, something she considers “inappropriate’’ and “absolutely crazy.’’
Morris told Sutten there are neighborhoods closer to Exxon’s Baton Rouge refinery than Tony is to the highway. After Sutten testified she has never visited Mike the tiger at LSU, Morris asked her if she is generally opposed to tigers being kept in cages or just opposed to Tony the truck stop tiger.
“Just Tony,’’ she acknowledged.
In response to an earlier ALDF lawsuit against LDWF, Caldwell last year barred the state agency from issuing any new permits to Tiger Truck Stop to keep 11-year-old Tony there. Sandlin has appealed that ruling to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
Caldwell said a state permit can be issued only to an individual, not a corporation, and Tiger Truck Stop is the permit holder, not Sandlin.
If Sandlin’s appeal is ultimately denied, LDWF has said it would give Sandlin 30 days to move Tony to a sanctuary of Sandlin’s choosing.
Sandlin, in a suit he filed against the state and Iberville Parish in January, is challenging the constitutionality of a 2006 state law that banned private ownership of large and exotic cats.
The state law includes a grandfather exception that allows people to keep exotic cats as pets as long as the animals were legally owned before Aug. 15, 2006, when the law went into effect.
ALDF contends Tony was not legally owned by Tiger Truck Stop before that date because a 1993 Iberville Parish ordinance prohibits anyone from owning wild, exotic or vicious animals for display or exhibition.
Sandlin’s suit also says the ordinance is unconstitutional. He argues the ordinance does not have an exception for persons with proper permits under federal law.
ALDF has filed a petition to intervene in Sandlin’s suit. State District Judge Janice Clark is scheduled to hold a hearing on that request Monday.
By Staff reports
Posted May 04, 2012 @ 09:30 AM
BASTROP, La. —
A state judge has refused to order the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to remove an 11-year-old tiger from a truck stop in Grosse Tete.
Judge Michael Caldwell ruled Thursday that he cannot order the executive branch to do that. He also ruled that the Animal Legal Defense Fund and two plaintiffs don’t have legal standing to bring up the question.
“There is no legal means for a private citizen to go to a court and ask the judge to order another branch of government to perform what is essentially a discretionary function,” said Jennifer Treadway Morris, attorney for Michael Sandlin and his Tiger Truck Stop Inc.
Lisa Franzetta, spokeswoman for the nonprofit group, said it was considering whether to appeal Thursday’s decision.
In November, Caldwell ordered the department to revoke the permit for a tiger at Tiger Truck Stop.
ALDF sued last month, saying the department refused to confiscate the animal from the truck stop and its owner, Michael Sandlin, because it has appealed Caldwell’s November decision and Sandlin had challenged the constitutionality of Louisiana’s ban on private ownership of big cats.
“In no way does today’s ruling affect the judge’s previous ruling that Michael Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop can’t be granted a permit to keep Tony,” Franzetta said. “We were trying to speed up the process of getting Tony away from the truck stop.”
Treadway Morris and attorneys for the Animal Legal Defense Fund will be back in State District Court on Monday. Judge Janice Clark has scheduled a hearing on the group’s request to intervene in Sandlin’s lawsuit.