Standing to Sue

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You can sue anybody for anything, no matter how goofy the claim, so long as you can make your way to the court clerk’s office and pony up the filing fee. That’s what I tell students in my undergraduate equine law classes, and it’s trueÑup to a point. Securing a place on the court docket is easy, but it is only the first step in what may become a very complicated and time consuming legal process. Filing a lawsuit does not guarantee that you will win, or even that the dispute will be heard by a judge and jury.

A case in point involves the Bureau of Land Management’s controversial “gathers” of wild mustangs in Nevada. The BLM argues that the roundups are necessary to keep wild horse populations in check; opponents claim that the action unnecessarily threatens the welfare of the animals and violates the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Legal action in Nevada to stop the roundups was unsuccessful. Last fall, animal welfare advocate Christine A. Jubic sought to stop a BLM roundup and relocation of wild horses with a slightly different legal tactic. She filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, rather than in Nevada where the roundup was scheduled to take place. There is some logic to this. The BLM is a federal agency based in Washington, so what better place to file a lawsuit against the agency?

Jubic claimed that the BLM plans violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal Land Policy Management Act, and other federal laws. She asked the D.C. court to issue an injunction halting the roundup until her case could wind its way through the system, buying the mustangs some time

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