Circuit Blocks Sea Shepherd Anti-Whaling Actions

Even for those who believe whale hunting is barbaric, engaging in violence those who engage in it “you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe you are.” So begins Chief Judge Alex Kozinski’s opinion Monday reinstating an injunction against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its founder Paul Watson for actions against the Japanese whaling research firm, Cetacean.

He went even farther, ordering a new district judge in Washington to be assigned to the case. Judge Richard A. Jones’ “numerous, serious and obvious errors identified in our opinion raise doubts as to whether he will be perceived as impartial in presiding over this high-profile case.”

In that portion of the case, Judge Milan Smith dissented.

Kozinski began by saying, “You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch” to be a pirate. “When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate…”

The Cetacean argued the actions violate international treaties for conduct on the high sea and it sought an injunction from Judge Jones, which was denied.

“That the perpetrators believe themselves to be serving the public good does not render their ends public,” he said. He found Jones’ interpretation that the Sea Shepherd conduct was not violent because it targets ships not people, runs afoul of United Nations Law of the Sea.

“The activities that Cetacean alleges Sea Shepherd has engaged in are clear instances of violent acts for private ends, the very embodiment of piracy,” he wrote.

Finding Judge Jones to have made numerous errors, Kozinski, joined by Judge Wallace Tashima, found “the appearance of justice would be served if the case were transferred to another district judge…”

In dissent, Smith said, “I see no basis for reassigning this case.”

case: Institute of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd , No. 12-035266

Dissent: Judge Smith here.



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