We have some courtroom successes to report on a number of recent seizure cases:
We were able to settle one seizure case in Federal Court in Atlanta after two years of litigation. The Agency agreed to release two elephant tusks that had been scrimshawed with the Big Five on one side. The tusks were released to the hunter after he disc-sanded off the scrimshawing in the presence of Law Enforcement agents.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ordered mediation in an African lion trophy case with the result that the hunter, after denial of his petition for remission, three years of litigation and order of forfeiture by a lower court, has been allowed to re-export his trophy to then re-import it again. The lion was seized because of a clerical error on the export permit by the issuing government.
The error was obviously a government clerical mistake and was corrected by the issuing government, but USFWS Law Enforcement would not even respond to multiple government emails to consult on the problem. The three-judge appellate panel took a dim view of the refusal of the USFWS to respond to the issuing government’s many attempts to correct their harmless error, particularly after USFWS would not accept a correcting permit because there had not been any consultation.
Conservation Force’s very first California seizure court cases have finally made it to the US Supreme Court. In the first, a leopard was seized after the export permit was lost by a major airline. In the other seizure, a clerk of the issuing country entered a nonsensical expiration date on the leopard export permit, not the intended six-month period.
The cases challenge the Constitutional excessiveness of forfeiture for the minor violations, the fundamental unfairness of the petition for remission hearing when the solicitor had a fixed position that the trophy is contraband that can’t be returned, the applicability of the “innocent owner defense” under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act and, fourth, the applicability of the Act of State Doctrine that should compel acceptance of foreign government decisions about their own official documents.