(CN) – Hunters who sued the U.S. government to import the trophies of endangered goats they killed in Pakistan are wasting the “limited resources” of the courts by pushing already-dismissed claims, a federal judge ruled.
In October 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied importation permits to four hunters who had hunted the endangered Suleiman markhor and wanted to bring the goat carcasses back to the United States as trophies.
Several groups joined the hunters a year later in challenging those denials as an arbitrary and capricious violation of due-process rights. The federal complaint also alleged that the failure to conduct a five-year status review of the goats constituted a violation of the Endangered Species Act. That law moreover carries a “bundle of duties” to consider all conservation efforts, including paid hunting, that preserve the species, according to the complaint.
Because Westerners will pay handsomely for the privilege to kill endangered goats, tribes across central Asia have cracked down on poaching, causing the markhor population to increase dramatically, the hunters say.
Banning carcass importation to the United States reduces that protection incentive, however, because “Americans are unwilling to pay full price to hunt if they are unable to bring their trophies home,” according to the complaint.
In September, the D.C. Circuit directed the hunters to advance only claims over the allegedly arbitrary and capricious denial of permits.
But the hunters nevertheless preserved each dismissed claim in their March amended complaint.
When the service noted that a second amended complaint might be in order, a lawyer for the hunters said he had “no interest in voluntarily dismissing or eliminating claims that have already been dismissed because it is unnecessary to waste any more time dealing with claims that are no longer at issue.”
But U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein balked at characterizing such claims as “no longer at issue,” all the while refusing to remove them from the complaint.
“Plaintiffs’ counsel’s failure to remove the already dismissed claims from the First Amended Complaint has caused opposing counsel and the court to waste time disposing of this issue,” Rothstein said Monday. “Such blatant disregard for the limited resources of the court will not be tolerated in the future.”
The hunters’ lawyer argued that inclusion of the dismissed claims “could not reasonably led [sic] defendants to believe [that] the [First Amended Complaint] constituted an attempt to revive the dismissed claims therein.” (Bracketed text copied from Rothstein’s ruling.)
Rothstein rejected this claim as “frivolous” and said it was “disingenuous” to argue otherwise.
The judge again dismissed all the claims except the arbitrary-and-capricious count, and gave the hunters until July 30 to file a properly limited seconded amended complaint.