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Seeking Justice for Animals

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With new funding, experienced staff, expanded programs, and a worldwide presence, Lewis & Clark’s Center for Animal Law Studies is a leader in its field.

by Bobbie Hasselbring

At first, the image seems innocent enough—a small calico kitten meanders around the legs of a half-hidden woman. But suddenly, disturbingly, the woman’s five-inch black stilettos come down hard on the cat’s tiny body, stomping it, crushing it. The video is brutal and bloody—not to mention illegal. But that doesn’t stop unscrupulous entrepreneurs from trying to make money by exploiting animals.

And that’s where the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, comes in. Pamela Frasch, assistant dean and executive director of the Center for Animal Law Studies, and Kathy Hessler, clinical professor and director of the Animal Law Clinic, have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to block people from selling images of animal cruelty. (An amicus brief is filed by someone who is not a party to the lawsuit but who has an interest in its outcome.)

Banning visual depictions of animal cruelty is just one of many national and international issues occupying the attention of faculty and students in Lewis & Clark’s animal law program. Animal law encompasses laws and legal questions that do more than just affect animals but actually take into account the interests of animals themselves. If a legal matter involves the well-being of animals, it is an animal law question.

By offering a comprehensive menu of courses, conferences, scholarship, and clinical opportunities, Lewis & Clark’s animal law program is at the forefront of one of the nation’s fastestgrowing fields of law.

Passionate Beginnings

The origins of the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark date back nearly 18 years and can be traced, in large part, to a handful of law students who cared passionately about animals. Nancy Perry J.D. ’95, Matt Howard J.D. ’94, and Ben Allen J.D. ’94 were among the first people at Lewis & Clark to identify animal law as a substantive field that deserved attention. As a student, Perry formed the initial collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the oldest legal animal protection organization, to create the first student ALDF chapter (SALDF).

Together, Perry, Howard, and Allen persuaded the law school to let them create the Animal Law journal and the annual Animal Law Conference. Today, Animal Law is a mainline journal with a solid subscriber base and articles by noted scholars and practitioners, including former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, former Senator Mark Hatfield, and Dr. Jane Goodall. The Animal Law Conference, which draws speakers and participants from around the world, is the largest and longest-running animal law conference in the country.

In 2001, the animal law program got a huge boost when Laura Ireland Moore J.D. ’01 convinced the law school to launch the nonprofit National Center for Animal Law at Lewis & Clark. Ireland Moore developed the Animal Law Clinical Internship Seminar, which grew into the Animal Law Clinic, where students get hands-on experience in the field. She also started the National Animal Advocacy Competitions, including appellate moot court, closing argument, mock trial, and legislative drafting and lobbying events.

In 2008, the program underwent another transformation. The law school received a generous three-year grant from ALDF “to develop a world-class, groundbreaking animal law program” that would “make Lewis & Clark Law School an exceptional choice for law students and scholars to study and develop the field of animal law,” according to ALDF director Pamela Alexander.

With funding came a new name—the Center for Animal Law Studies—new staff, and an expanded vision for the program. Pamela Frasch, former litigator and general counsel for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, was hired as executive director. Clinical legal expert Kathy Hessler became director of the Animal Law Clinic. Hessler, then a professor at Case Western Reserve University, was also cochair of the Clinical Legal Education Section of the American Association of Law Schools and chair-elect of the Animal Law Section. Now, the animal law program is shaping not only students, but also policies, laws, and other animal law programs around the world.

Real-World Skills

When Kathy Hessler joined the Center for Animal Law Studies 18 months ago, she vowed the Animal Law Clinic, a laboratory where students gain practical experience with real cases, would delve into animal law issues with far-reaching impact. She’s making good on that promise.

“The clinic is tackling some of the field’s thorniest questions,” says Hessler. “Our big issues are factory farming and animal testing. Factory farming is inherently cruel to animals and workers, it pollutes, and it sets up unfair competition between factory farmers and small farmers. As for animal testing, in many areas, scientists have found that it simply doesn’t work. It’s expensive and not producing scientifically valid results.”

Under Hessler’s guidance, law students conduct research, develop white papers, and build community coalitions to address these issues. And they’re doing it via collaboration rather than confrontation.

“Our collaborative approach is quite deliberate,” says Frasch. “Kathy and I have been doing this work for a combined total of 40 years, and we know from experience we can accomplish a lot through collaboration.”

That means bringing together parties that are usually at odds with one another. “Animal protection issues tend to polarize people—you’re either an abuser or a protector, and until now, people haven’t been talking across the divide,” says Hessler. “We’re working with people we agree with on some issues, but not on others, to determine the best ways to move forward.”

The Center for Animal Law Studies is part of a group sponsoring animal testing symposia around the country, bringing together scientists, researchers, politicians, regulators, legal experts, industry officials, animal protection activists, and environmental and public and health representatives. They’ve held symposia at Lewis & Clark, the University of Ottawa, and the University of Chicago. At an upcoming symposium in Washington, D.C., Frasch says, “We plan to propose specific language for legislation and regulations.”

At the federal level, Frasch, Hessler, and attorney Megan Senatori recently filed an amicus brief on behalf of animal law professors nationwide in United States v. Robert J. Stevens. The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether or not Stevens has a First Amendment right to sell videos of dog fighting. The amicus brief garnered 45 signatories, including law professors from Harvard, Cornell, and the University of California at Berkeley.

Going International

Frasch and Hessler are also putting animal law and the Center for Animal Law Studies on the national and international map. “Pam and Kathy have done an amazing job expanding our animal law program,” says Janice Weis, associate dean and director of the Environmental Law and Natural Resources Program (which houses the animal law program). “They’re traveling all over the country and to places like Japan and Brazil to share their expertise on animal law issues and to promote their good work.”

In addition to speaking around the world, Frasch and Hessler are publishing widely. Frasch’s Animal Law: Cases and Materials is now in its 10th year as the definitive animal law casebook. Frasch and Hessler are writing the first-ever “In a Nutshell” book on animal law for WestLaw publishers. Hessler is also working on the first animal law book to help instructors in other areas of law address animal law issues in their courses.

Additionally, they’re writing articles and chapters for a number of journals and magazines in the United States and abroad, including the Journal of Legal Education and various publications of the American Bar Association. This year alone, their work will be translated into French, Japanese, and Portuguese for several foreign publications. They’ve also helped expand Lewis & Clark’s Animal Law journal to two volumes a year and helped revitalize its national advisory board.

The Animal Law Conference, held annually at Lewis & Clark in October, has gone international too. This fall’s keynote speakers will include Dr. Sheri Speede, founder of Sanga-Yong Chimpanzee Center and In Defense of Animals–Africa, and Katrina Sharman, the “mother” of animal law in Australia and corporate counsel for the Voiceless Animal Protection Institute.

Developing a Model Program

Both Frasch and Hessler feel a deep sense of responsibility for continuing the work started nearly two decades ago at Lewis & Clark and for developing a model program for others to follow.

“Pam is an expert in academic program development,” observes Hessler. “We’re the first and only program of our kind, and Pam knows what it takes to develop a really good academic animal law program. She oversees all the pieces—teaching, writing, speaking, competitions, Animal Law, the conference, the student group—to make sure they cohere as a program.”

In their short time with the program, Frasch and Hessler have greatly expanded the academic offerings. In addition to the entry-level animal law course, they now offer an advanced seminar. The Animal Law Clinic has expanded from one to two semesters and now includes an advanced clinical component. A new clinical internship program offers students the opportunity to work side by side with animal law professionals on advocacy, legislation, and policy formation. The summer Animal Law Academy, the only one of its kind, has grown from two to five courses and includes comparative animal law, legal issues pertaining to companion animals, international wildlife law and federal legislation, lobbying, and litigation—all taught by national and international experts.

Students and alumni say the program has enriched their legal education. Mark Eichelman LL.M. ’09, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, is chief of the Resource Sustainment and Restoration Branch of the Army’s Environmental Law Division in Arlington, Virginia. “Lewis & Clark gave me a great basis of knowledge with which to converse and consult intelligently on issues spanning the spectrum of environmental and natural resources law,” Eichelman says. “Kathy Hessler and Pam Frasch showed me how attorneys dedicated to animal rights and protection can advance these causes through education, advocacy, legislation, and enforcement.”

Jessica Su Johnson, who will receive her J.D. in 2011, is pursuing a certificate in environmental and natural resources law with an emphasis in animal law. She’s the form and style editor for Animal Law Review and the secretary of SALDF, and says, “The program is amazing—moot courts, mediations, investigative field trips, and classes that involve heated discussions. It means never a dull moment and lots of hands-on experience.”

Although Lewis & Clark arguably has the best animal law program in the nation, Frasch and Hessler have even bigger plans for the future, including more courses, full-time professors, international scholars, a visiting professorship program, and more intern and extern opportunities.

“We may be the best, but we want to grow,” says Frasch. “We want to make sure our students are exposed to all sides of animal law so they’re well prepared to go out there and really make a difference for animals and for people.” ■

Award-winning freelance writer Bobbie Hasselbring’s last story for the Chronicle was “Changing Careers, Changing the World” in the winter 2010 issue.

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