Animal Legal Defense Fund et al v. United States Department of Agriculture et al

Filing 36

Order by Hon. Samuel Conti granting 19 Motion to Intervene. (sclc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/3/2012)

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1 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 10 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 ANIMAL LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, et al., ) Case No. 12-4407-SC ) Plaintiffs, ) ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO ) INTERVENE v. ) ) UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF ) AGRICULTURE, et al., ) ) Defendants, ) ) and ) ) MARINE EXHIBITION CORPORATION ) d/b/a MIAMI SEAQUARIUM, ) ) Defendant-Intervenor. ) ) On August 22, 2012, Plaintiffs Animal Legal Defense Fund, Orca 20 Network, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., Howard 21 Garrett, Shelby Proie, Patricia Sykes, and Karen Munro 22 ("Plaintiffs") filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive 23 relief against Defendants United States Department of Agriculture 24 ("USDA"), Tom Vilsack, in his official capacity as Secretary of the 25 USDA, and Elizabeth Goldentyer, in her official capacity as Eastern 26 Regional Director of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection 27 Service (collectively, "Federal Defendants"). 28 complaint challenges the living conditions of an orca whale named Plaintiffs' 1 Lolita that for forty years has been held at the Miami Seaquarium 2 ("Seaquarium"). 3 April 12, 2012 decision to renew the Seaquarium's license to hold 4 Lolita violated provisions of the Animal Welfare Act ("AWA"), 7 5 U.S.C. §§ 2131 et seq., and the Administrative Procedure Act 6 ("APA"), 7 Plaintiffs assert that the Federal Defendants' 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(C). Now pending before the Court is the Federal Defendants' motion 8 to dismiss or transfer this case. 9 position is that this case should be heard in either United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 ECF No. 16. Federal Defendants' the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (the District where the agency and the Secretary of Agriculture reside), or the Eastern District of North Carolina (the District where the Eastern Regional Office of the USDA is located and where the challenged license extension decision was made), or the Southern District of Florida (the District in which [Seaquarium] and [Lolita] are located). 11 12 13 14 15 Id. at 2. 16 ECF No. 18. 17 as the Seaquarium, has filed, on a proposed basis, a brief joining 18 in and in support of the Federal Defendants' motion. 19 ("Seaquarium Reply"). 20 Plaintiffs argue that venue before this Court is proper. The Marine Exhibition Corporation, which does business ECF No. 23 Seaquarium was not named in Plaintiffs' complaint and moves to 21 intervene. 22 Defendants take no position on it. 23 Seaquarium seeks intervention as of right pursuant to Federal Rule 24 of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) or, in the alternative, permissive 25 intervention under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(b)(1). 26 ECF No. 19. Plaintiffs do not oppose the motion and Id. at 2; ECF No. 31-1 ¶ 4. The Court concludes that intervention as of right is warranted 27 and therefore considers Seaquarium's motion under only that 28 standard. Rule 24(a)(2) motions are subject to a four-factor test: 2 (1) The motion must be timely; (2) the applicant must claim a "significantly protectable" interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action; (3) the applicant must be so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede[] its ability to protect that interest; and (4) the applicant's interest must be inadequately represented by the parties to the action. 1 2 3 4 5 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 2, 2012) (citing Wilderness Soc. v. U.S. Forest 8 Serv., 630 F.3d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc)). 9 this standard, the Court must be "guided primarily by practical and 10 United States District Court Sutton v. Apple Computers iTunes, C 11-03911 LB, 2012 WL 691743 7 For the Northern District of California 6 equitable considerations" and construe Rule 24 "broadly in favor of 11 proposed intervenors." 12 288 F.3d 391, 397 (9th Cir. 2002). 13 In applying United States v. City of Los Angeles, Cal., As to the first factor, Seaquarium's motion is timely because 14 this case is in the earliest stages of litigation; no substantive 15 motions other than the motion on venue have yet been filed. 16 Second, Seaquarium has a significantly protectable interest in its 17 license to house Lolita. 18 a practical matter, impair or impede Seaquarium's ability to 19 protect its interest in its license because, if Plaintiffs prevail 20 in this action, the federal government may be obliged to rescind 21 that license. 22 license to be rescinded without Seaquarium having been given the 23 opportunity to defend it. 24 in this litigation is different enough from Seaquarium's that their 25 presence is not, by itself, enough to safeguard Seaquarium's 26 interest. 27 represent the public interest, while Seaquarium represents its own, 28 narrower business interest in exhibiting exotic wildlife. Third, disposition of this action may, as It would be inequitable to allow Seaquarium's Fourth, the Federal Defendants' interest As Seaquarium succinctly puts it, the Federal Defendants 3 E.g., 1 Kleissler v. U.S. Forest Serv., 157 F.3d 964, 973-74 (3d Cir. 2 1998). 3 4 5 6 7 Accordingly, the motion to intervene of Marine Exhibition Corporation d/b/a Miami Seaquarium is GRANTED. Granting that motion makes a number of other administrative matters ripe for determination: • The Court deems Seaquarium's proposed answer to Plaintiffs' 8 complaint, ECF No. 21, FILED as of November 16, 2012, and 9 the Seaquarium Reply FILED as of November 20, 2012. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 • Seaquarium's administrative motion requesting that the 11 Court consider the Seaquarium Reply, ECF No. 31, is 12 GRANTED. 13 • Because this Order decides Seaquarium's motion to 14 intervene, its motion for an order shortening time to have 15 that motion heard, ECF No. 22, is DENIED AS MOOT. 16 • Plaintiffs' administrative motion for leave to file a 17 response to the Seaquarium Reply, ECF No. 34, is GRANTED. 18 The Court deems Plaintiffs' proposed response, ECF No. 35, 19 FILED as of November 29, 2012. 20 21 IT IS SO ORDERED. 22 23 24 Dated: December 3, 2012 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 25 26 27 28 4

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