U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has ruled that the animal activist groups that sued Feld Entertainment Inc., which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, will be required to reimburse Feld for its attorney fees.
The reimbursement could run into the millions of dollars.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) sued Feld in July 2000, charging its circus, which performs the "Greatest Show on Earth," with cruelty to elephants.
ASPCA was joined in its suit by other activist groups, including the Animal Protection Institute, Animal Welfare Institute, Fund for Animals and The Humane Society of the United States.
Sullivan dismissed the suit in 2009, ruling that the case was based mainly on testimony by Tom Rider, a former caretaker for the circus' elephants, who Sullivan determined to be "a paid witness" whose testimony was conflicting and "not credible."
Feld then brought a RICO (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organization Act) lawsuit against the activist groups, alleging that they had collaborated to pay Rider to provide false testimony and seeking to recover court costs (Feedstuffs, Feb. 22, 2010). Feld said it spent more than $20 million defending its circus over the course of the nine-year trial.
Sullivan, who sits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C., has not yet determined the amount of court costs the groups must reimburse.
ASPCA, which paid Feld $9 million in December to end litigation between the two parties (Feedstuffs, Jan. 7), will not be involved. However, Sullivan said the activist groups' attorney, Katherine Meyer, and her law firm, Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, will be held partly responsible.