Blackfish: Sea World v. OSHA

Workplace safety has been a cause of concern in the United States for over a century. Such concern has led to a slew of federal and local workplace safety regulations. The Railroad Safety Appliance Act helped significantly reduce the number of worker injuries in the railroad industry. Coal mine worker fatalities averaged over 2,000 a year in the early 1900s, leading to the passage of the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Activism over children working in factories resulted in passage of the Keating–Owen Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The most well-known set of regulations related to labor is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 that was designed to ensure that employers provide employees with an environment free from hazards.

Animals Work for Food
However, in the entertainment industry, “work” is also performed by animals. While considered by most as property, many animals routinely perform and in some instances get “paid” to do so. Indeed, the entertainment industry relies heavily on animals for revenue. Zoos, circuses, carnivals, aquariums, theme parks, television and movies all regularly feature animals. Even though there is a history of maltreatment and accidental injury and death to animals who work, there are very few laws in place to protect animals, and certainly none as comprehensive as OSHA. The only federal law that addresses the treatment of animals that are exhibited to the public is the Animal Welfare Act of 1966. The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for animals that are bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. States also have animal welfare laws. For example, 41 states make certain types of animal cruelty felonies. Six states, however, exempt exhibited animals from their animal cruelty rules. Most laws focus on animal safety during transport. Others are concerned with making sure that worldwide animal populations are maintained.

Blackfish Documentary
Blackfish, a documentary released at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2013 and recently shown on CNN documents the poor treatment of Tilikum, a dolphin, at Orlando’s Sea World. According to filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite and animal rights advocates such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, dolphins in captivity at Sea World suffer from boredom and stress. They are simply too large, too socially aware, and too intelligent to thrive in captivity. In other words, these dolphins go “stir crazy” in captivity. They become aggressive. According to Cowperthwaite, Tilikum’s aggression led to the 2010 killing of his trainer Sea World employee Dawn Brancheau as well as the deaths of two other people. In the aftermath of Brancheau’s death OSHA stepped in. But OSHA is charged with ensuring the safety of people. Thus, it stepped in out of concern for the safety of Sea World employees, not out of concern for the health and safety of Tilikum and other whales.

Nonetheless, Brancheau’s death and Blackfish have had an impact. They have brought the conversation about how exhibit animals should be treated out of the meeting rooms of scientists and animal advocacy groups into elementary school classrooms and the homes of consumers across the country. Many believe that Sea World and similar businesses should change how they treat dolphins. Children and celebrities are refusing to patronize Sea World until it changes it policies. Perhaps if there were regulations in place that looked at animal health and safety in a similar way that legislators have looked at the safety of workers, animals might be treated vastly differently. Indeed, there are some dolphin experts who would produce evidence to support the position that dolphins should not be kept in captivity at all.

Sea World vehemently disagrees with the conclusions reached in Blackfish about the treatment of dolphins at Sea World. Regardless of who is right– Sea World or Cowperthwaite–wouldn’t a set of OSHA-like regulations for exhibit animals at least force the scientific community to look at the research and come to a consensus on how to best treat animals in captivity?

Detainee Due Process in the War on Terror

When Congress passed the law that will govern how terrorist suspects can be tried in military tribunals, it acted just like the Founding Fathers would have wished. It stuck fast to principles, the bedrock of values and beliefs that this nation stands for — and it compromised on particulars.The Defense Department holds about 350 detainees at Guantanamo Bay who are considered enemy combatants and whom the military believes would fight America and its allies if released. Like all captured enemies, these detainees should be held for the duration of hostilities or until the military is satisfied that they pose no further threat.This is how enemies captured in wartime have traditionally been handled. Military leaders believe, however, that some of these detainees have committed serious war crimes. They wanted, and rightly so, to bring them to justice. That’s where Congress comes in.This summer, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress must explicitly authorize the commissions used to try alleged war criminals. The administration was right to argue against using the Uniform Code of Military Justice or the regular civilian court system as a basis for these trials.Both are traditional legal systems that put the protection of individual rights first, ahead of accommodations for national security and military necessity. This system is not appropriate for trying terrorists in the Pentagon’s custody while the war is still going on.Instead, the Bush administration proposed a judicial process that foremost protects national security interests while also including procedural protections to ensure due process.
Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Service Committee authored a competing version of legislation for the “military commissions” that would try the alleged war criminals at Guantanamo. Intense negotiations between the House, Senate and White House produced a compromise that Congress passed last week.

Three principles were at stake in the debate — ones that should be used to grade the compromise. Any suitable legislation would have to 1) respect the rule of law, 2) guarantee the basic human rights to the defendants and 3) respect the legitimate national security interests of the United States. By any fair measure of the legislation, Congress did all three.

In stipulating the procedures that will be used to interrogate defendants, Congress fulfilled the Supreme Court’s mandate of specifically authorizing the rules for trials. It was Congress’ job to ensure that all the equitable elements of due process, such as the right to counsel, were included. Congress did this.

Congress also stipulated that these procedures complied with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. This measure was designed to reassure the rest of the world that the United States takes seriously its responsibility to respect the basic human rights of all persons, on and off the battlefield.

Finally, Congress ensured that adequate measures were taken to protect legitimate secrets and the “sources and methods” used to obtain them. Some complain that other war crimes trials, such as the Nazi Nuremberg trials and the prosecutions of Bosnian war criminals at the Hague, did not allow for “secret” evidence.

But there is a significant difference. Those trials didn’t take place during a war when enemies on the battlefield might use the information to their advantage. Under the congressional rules for military commissions, defendants will still be able to know about and challenge evidence — they just won’t be able to give away America’s secrets.

Civil Litigation Law Guide

To endure the often lengthy process of civil litigation, and to make effective decisions at each stage of a lawsuit, you need to understand the chronology of a case, its importance in resolving the case, and the unique terminology involved. Those who understand this otherwise perplexing process are best-suited to work with their attorneys to achieve the best possible results effectively, efficiently and with an eye toward reducing the cost of litigation.

1. Where to Sue? You don’t need three years of law school to realize that there are many different courts throughout the United States with many different functions. But to understand litigation, it’s important to learn the each court’s role within the system.
2. Filing Suit Cases take many shapes and sizes. To understand lawsuits, one must often sort through a number of parties and claims to figure out “who’s who” and get to the heart of the matter.
3. Serving the Lawsuit To protect constitutional rights, plaintiffs must satisfy due process by serving process on the defendant.
4. Defending Against Lawsuits After being served with lawsuits, defendants only have a short time to respond, with a preliminary motion or an answer establishing defenses to the action.
5. Discovery and Investigation As its name suggests, discovery is the investigative phase of the litigation process. Unlike the surprises typical of cases tried by Perry Mason, the discovery rules are designed to uncover the facts well in advance of trial.
6. Pretrial Motions Just because a lawsuit has been filed, that does not mean that the case will ultimately go to trial. Much can happen en route to the courthouse to derail a case or produce victory long before the trial itself.
7. The Trial Though many cases settle or are decided before trial, the trial provides most of the high-stakes drama. To sort through it, and place the evidence in its proper context, one must understand the mechanics of the trial process.
8. Post-Trial Motions Even after the jury has spoken, litigants may file certain “post-trial motions” designed to grab victory out of the jaws of defeat, to persuade the judge to order a new trial, or to modify the result in some less drastic way.
9. Enforcing and Collecting Judgments Beyond enforcement, judgments also have rippling effects on other litigation, precluding similar claims and similar issues from being tried in the future.
10. Appeals After losing at trial, those seeking relief from adverse judgments often forgo post-trial motions addressed to the same courts that handed them their losses. They go above the trial judge’s head to the appellate court.