In a 115-page brief filed on May 9, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Rachel Meeropol seeks to convince the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is unconstitutional. A previous CCR case challenging the AETA as a violation of free speech on behalf of five activists (Blum v. Holder) was dismissed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014. A request for the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision was denied. CCR also argued the AETA was unconstitutional in defense of Kevin Olliff (aka Johnson) and Tyler Lang. The federal court in Chicago rejected that argument, and Olliff and Lang were tried and convicted of AETA conspiracy. They entered non-cooperating guilty plea agreements, which did not waive their right of appeal.
Court House News Service reports Meeropol said it is irrational to punish nonviolent property damage as terrorism, and her clients have a liberty interest in avoiding being labeled terrorists when they have committed no violent crime. "Designating people who release animals — in order to save them from being killed and made into coats — as terrorists is not only preposterous, it is unconstitutional." "This criminalizes all interstate animal rights advocacy," Meeropol wrote, and "reach[es] a vast amount of protected speech and expressive conduct."
Two previous and similar challenges questioning the constitutionality of the AETA have failed. Please continue to check your email for NABR's member newsletter, the NABR Update, or visit www.NABR.org for updates on this issue.