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Sued By An Eagle - How Could The Bird Lose?

I'm sure there have been others, but there are not many lawsuits filed by bald eagles. Certainly, it's a novel approach, and designed, I'm sure to garner attention.

It got mine.

In Illinois, energy proponents want to build the Crescent Ridge Wind Power farm. Farmers, it seems, would make up to $94 per acre leasing their land to the wind farm instead of around $60 per acre growing soybeans or corn. That's quite a profit. Of course the wind farm is no lightweight, either. It's expected to cost some $60 million.

But you already know that not everyone agrees. Environmentalists are concerned that the wind farm will harm the endangered species that inhabit the area proposed for the 2200-acre wind farm.

Since the bald eagle, an Indiana bat, a northern harrier and numerous migratory birds can't speak for themselves (audio will play), someone else filed suit on their behalf. That attorney, however, is not yet fully licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Go figure.

But, for the want of $50, that problem will likely be solved pretty quickly once the appropriate paperwork (and $50 fee) is paid to the powers that be at the Illinois state bar. But the attorney, Dowell Baker, has bigger problems. The wind farm attorneys want to dismiss the case.

Their motion claims that: "[t]he enumerated animal plaintiffs also purport to seek relief based upon the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald Eagle Protection Act, the Lanham Act, the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act and the Administrative Review Act. ... The plain language of each of these statutes limits standing to 'persons' and does not confer standing on 'animals.' "

Well, there you have it in a nutshell (pun not intended, of course). Animals can't sue.

That's a pretty good argument. But, Dowell Baker was ready for that one. They also named a regular guy, Robert Bittner, as a plaintiff, too. So, figuring that they might lose the animal-is-not-a-plaintiff dismissal motion, the defendants took another shot.

The wind farm attorneys also argued that the Illinois Supreme Court had already considered the very same issues in the bird/animals lawsuit and denied to review it (the Canel case). They're more likely to win this second argument because the first one, while attractive, is moot.

I don't know, though. I kind of like the appeal of a bald eagle as a plaintiff. The judge would have an eagle in front of him as well as behind him.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, October 13, 2004


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