Alaska Supreme Court Turns Back Friend of Animals Appeal

In what will likely be the last legal maneuver in a case that started in 1997, The Fairbanks News-Daily Miner reports that the Alaska Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Friends of Animals over a $200,000 judgment won by wolf trapper Eugene Johnson against the animal rights group.

In 1997, Johnson sued Friends of Animals and wildlife biologist Gordon Haber over the release of a wolf from a trap owed by Johnson. Haber released the wolf — which was found dead about three weeks later with wire from the trap still in its feet — while he was in Alaska doing research funded by Friends of Animals. Haber later distributed a videotape of the wolf’s release, and Johnson sued both Haber and Friends of Animals.

A jury found in Johnson’s favor and awarded him damages of $100,000 from Friends of Animals and $79,000 from Haber.

Friends of Animals appealed the verdict arguing that Haber was not acting as an agent of Friends of Animals when he released the wolf. An Alaska Superior Court judge rejected its first appeal in 2002, and the Alaska Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal is pretty much then end of the animal rights groups options. It could appeal to the United States Supreme Court, but as the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner noted, given that there are no federal issues involved such an appeal would certainly be rejected by the Supreme Court.

Johnson died in June 2002, but his estate will likely move to collect on the judgment. Due to another ruling in the case, Johnson’s estate will likely only be able to collect the judgment from the Friends of Animals which Johnson’s attorney said would amount to $120,000 once attorney fees and interest are included.

Sources:

Court will not consider appeal by animal rights group. Dan Rice, Fairbanks Daily-News Miner, April 30, 2003.

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