Lunch Speaker Series Tackles Eco-Terrorism Laws
January 28, 2009 — State and federal laws that aim to curb violence by environmentalists and animal-rights activists are not constitutional, attorney Dara Lovitz said during a discussion at Earle Mack School of Law on Jan. 28.
Eco-terrorism laws that have been adopted by the federal government and 30 states criminalize constitutionally protected activities, Lovitz said during an event sponsored by Earle Mack School of Law’s chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Laws such as the federal Animal Enterprise Protection Act ban all activities that could disrupt work at animal facilities, Lovitz said, noting that holding a simple placard outside a laboratory produce such a result.
While criminalizing constitutionally protected activities, the laws also brand acts like theft – which are already covered under the criminal code – as domestic terrorism, Lovitz said.
The laws are also suspect because they have been applied in a discriminatory manner, Lovitz said, nothing that activists who protest outside of animal-testing laboratories have been charged, but not abortion opponents who rally outside of women’s health facilities.
Lovitz, an associate with Zarwin, Baum, DeVito, Kaplan, Schaer and Toddy, P.C. who practices personal injury and medical malpractice law, is also Legal Chair for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club and a former special prosecutor in Lancaster County responsible for enforcing Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty statute.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is currently considering a challenge to the federal law that is being waged by attorneys for the Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty. Several activists from the organization were prosecuted under the AETA and imprisoned for allegedly disrupting the activities of Huntington Life Sciences, a company that performs animal testing.
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