Federal judge weighs legal challenge to animal rights anti-terrorism law
By Howard Mintz
Posted: 07/13/2009 04:23:11 PM PDT
Updated: 07/14/2009 03:41:30 AM PDT
A federal judge in San Jose on Monday sent mixed signals over the fate of a new law designed to target violent animal-rights protests, indicating he will rule later in the nation's first direct legal challenge to Congress' attempt to protect animal researchers and scientists from serious safety threats.
During an hourlong hearing, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte suggested that the 2006 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act may be legally vulnerable, but he also left doubts about whether the current lawsuit is the right path to take on the law in its entirety.
Federal prosecutors invoked the law for the first time earlier this year, indicting four activists accused of threats and vandalism against University of California medical researchers in Santa Cruz and Berkeley.
Lawyers for the defendants, backed by civil liberties groups, argue that the animal terrorism law is unconstitutional. They say it's too broad, vague and tramples on the free speech rights of animal rights advocates who protest and boycott for their cause. In moving to dismiss the indictment, they maintain the law targets animal rights groups so broadly that it would criminalize a boycott or protest outside a fur store. Read More
This important legislation was designed to protect animal enterprises, specifically researchers that utilize animals. Attacks on these people because of their work is really no different than the hate crime laws that protect against attacking people for their race or religion. It is not free speech to firebomb someone’s house, that is terrorism.