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California Introduces bill similar to AETA

UC seeks law to crack down on animal-rights protests

By Matt Krupnick
Contra Costa Times

04/14/2008

The University of California has gone to the Legislature seeking to restrict public access to information about academics who do animal research and to make it illegal to post personal information about them online. The prohibited online information would include the researchers' names, home addresses and photographs. The measure, AB2296, also would outlaw activities targeting corporate researchers.

Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-San Mateo, agreed to submit the legislation at UC's request after months of harassment, threats and vandalism at the homes and offices of university researchers.

"Several campuses have experienced incidents which are just shocking," said Chancellor George Blumenthal of UC Santa Cruz during a telephone news conference Monday. Protesters in February are accused of trying to break into a UC Santa Cruz professor's home and attacking her husband. "It's the greatest threat to academic freedom that I've ever seen on this campus."

At UCLA, protesters both flooded and lit a fire at a medical professor's home. Activists have visited the homes of UC Berkeley researchers, shouting, posting fliers and , in the past few days, breaking windows.

Such a law would curtail free speech, said Jerry Vlasak, a Los Angeles-area surgeon who acts as a spokesman for the more extreme branch of the animal-rights movement. It would not stop vandalism and other protests, he said.

"The people who are doing underground direct action don't care what the law says anyway," he said. The measure "is aimed at those who are exercising their free-speech rights."

Limits on protests walk a fine line between oppressive and protective, said Michael Risher, a San Francisco-based attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. Courts have ruled that similar restrictions on Web sites targeting abortion doctors are legal, he said, but only when they are likely to incite violence. "We would really want to see that there's a threat to people's safety," he said. The bill may "sweep much too broadly."

Mullin acknowledged Monday that he is trying to balance First Amendment rights with protection for researchers. He said he plans to rewrite the information restriction this week to protect a select group of them. "We're not in the business of narrowing constitutional protections," he said. "Finding that balance is what we're all about."

The amended version would limit California's public-records laws, however. Legislators will be asked to exempt information about researchers from disclosure under the California Public Records Act, which makes most government documents available to anyone who asks for them.

UC leaders said they were worried that protesters had obtained personal information on the professors from public records, but they had no specific examples.

Protesters increasingly have targeted professors who use animals in their research, citing examples of drilled skulls, forced dehydration and paralyzation of cats, rats and hyenas. Activists say the research is unnecessary and overly invasive. University administrators said the research could not be done without using animals and have repeatedly called the protesters terrorists. "Free speech is not the issue," said Steven Beckwith, the UC vice president for research. "The issue is violence. We just don't tolerate violence."

Matt Krupnick covers higher education. Reach him at 925-943-8246 or mkrupnick@bayareanewsgroup.com.

ONLINE: read the proposed animal-researcher law, go to www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html and search for "2296" as the bill number.


Bill aimed at protecting animal researchers scaled back

J.M. BROWN - SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL STAFF WRITER

Article Launched: 04/15/2008 01:33:04 AM PDT

Legislation aimed at curtailing violence against scientists who conduct experiments on animals is being retooled to address concerns that it would cloak research laboratories at UC Santa Cruz and elsewhere in secrecy.

Assemblyman Gene Mullin, who chairs the Select Committee on Biotechnology, acknowledged Monday that the bill's major obstacle will be satisfying fears about the effect on public access to information about research activities at academic and nonprofit labs. The bill would also cover commercial research labs, but not farms, meat packing plants or similar businesses.

At UC's request, the San Mateo Democrat proposed the measure Feb. 21 after physical attacks by animal rights advocates on university researchers in Los Angeles and Berkeley, which were followed by what police call a home invasion attempt by six masked demonstrators against a UCSC researcher. UC officials laud the bill as much-needed protection for employees who are conducting medical studies designed to treat and cure illnesses, but animal rights groups and First Amendment advocates complain the measure would have a chilling effect on public access, as well as demonstrators who protest legally.

As the bill moves to the Assembly's Judiciary Committee this week, Mullin said clean-up language would strike original provisions that exempted information about researchers from public disclosure laws. He said he is still hammering out how to balance between the right to privacy of researchers and their families with the public's right to know what kind of experiments are being conducted and who is funding them. "We are not in the business of narrowing constitutional provisions," Mullin said.

But Steven V.W. Beckwith, UC's vice president for system wide research, said free speech is a two-way street. He said the university would not tolerate violence against employees by "terrorists" who call their actions freedom of expression and said the bill was being modeled on legislation designed to protect abortion providers and other healthcare workers.

"As a university, we really cherish free speech, but [this] issue isn't free speech, the issue is violence," he said during a teleconference with Mullin and other UC officials. "The bill before us should make it much easier to preserve the rights and safety of [researchers'] families."

A UCSC biomedical researcher whose home was targeted by animal rights activists declined Monday to discuss the legislation, which she said she was not even aware of. Police are still investigating who was responsible for banging on the front door of her Santa Cruz residence and hitting her husband on the arm with an unknown object.

Researchers at UC Berkeley and UCLA have also been the target of numerous incidents, including a firebombing and other property damage at their homes. Santa Cruz police are working with authorities in both cities to determine if there are links.

Calling the incidents "the greatest threat to academic freedom that I've seen in the history of this campus," UCSC Chancellor George R. Blumenthal, said the bill, if passed, "could serve as deterrent for new cases."

AB 2296 would make it a misdemeanor to harm or intimidate a researcher who works with animals, including publicly posting the names, photographs, home addresses and home telephone numbers of researchers online or elsewhere. Anyone convicted under the legislation could face up to a year in county jail and fines up to $25,000. The bill also allows researchers or their employers to seek an injunction against animal rights advocates or Web sites publishing their photos or personal information.

Jerry Vlasak, a Southern California physician who acts as a spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Press Office, said the bill will not deter underground activists from illegally entering private property to set lab animals free or conduct other demonstrations. Rather, he said the measure is aimed at advocates who are "trying to obey the law" by conducting legal protests and boycotts.

The Animal Liberation Front has not claimed responsibility for the UCSC attack, but Vlasak said the fact that lawmakers are getting involved in protecting researchers has served the group's purpose because it has clearly "made these people feel uncomfortable" about the experiments he said take place "in these torture chambers they call laboratories."

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said he was sympathetic to the university wanting to protect the well-being of employees, but said restrictions on speech, including requiring Web site operators to take down information posted about researchers, smacks of "prior restraint against the press." He said public access laws already contain protections that balance personal privacy rights against a compelling need for the public to know about government-funded activities.

Contact J.M. Brown at 429-2410 or jbrown@santacruzsentinel.com.


Contact: Press Officer Jerry Vlasak, MD
Animal Liberation Press Office
6320 Canoga Avenue #1500
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

818.227-5022

www.animalliberationpressoffice.org
press@animalliberationpressoffice.org


California has introduced a bill similar to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Hearings seem to be scheduled for next Tuesday, April 15th. See below. If you are in California, you may want to call your state representatives and senators to oppose this bill. If you have friends or family in California, please ask them to do the same.

Odette J. Wilkens, Esq.
Executive Director
Equal Justice Alliance
www.EqualJusticeAlliance.org

Working for freedom of speech and assembly

BILL NUMBER: AB 2296

AMENDED BILL TEXT

AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY APRIL 1, 2008

INTRODUCED BY Assembly Member Mullin

FEBRUARY 21, 2008

An act relating to animals to add Section 52.6 to the Civil Code, to add Section 6254.30 to the Government Code, and to add Sections 606, 606.1, 606.2, and 606.3 to the Penal Code, relating to animal enterprises .

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST

AB 2296, as amended, Mullin. Animals.

Animals: Animal Enterprise Protection Act.

Existing law establishes various causes of action, including actions for damages and injunctive relief, for the enforcement of various rights.

This bill would provide that no person, business, or association shall knowingly publicly post or publicly display on the Internet a home address, home telephone number, or image of any employee of an animal enterprise or other individuals residing at the same home address of the employee of an animal enterprise, as specified. The bill would authorize a victim of a violation of those prohibitions to maintain an action for damages and for injunctive relief, as specified.

Existing law, subject to exceptions, generally provides the disclosure of public records, as specified.

This bill would exempt from disclosure, information relating to animal research activities when there is a reasonable basis to conclude that public disclosure of the records would result in harassment of individuals involved with the research. The bill would state findings and the intent of the Legislature in this regard.

Existing law establishes various offenses in connection with obstruction of, or interference with, among other things, places of business.

This bill would provide that every person who commits any of certain acts for the purpose of injuring, intimidating, or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise, as defined, or with a person connected, as specified, to an animal enterprise, or who damages or destroys property because of its connection to an animal enterprise, as specified, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The bill would provide alternate punishments depending on the elements of the offense of up to 6 months imprisonment in a county jail and a fine of up to $2,000, or up to one year in a county jail and a fine of up to $25,000. Fines would be increased for subsequent offenses and other circumstances, as specified. The bill would also authorize actions for damages and civil penalties, and for restraining orders in connection with violations of the prohibitions, as specified.

By creating new crimes, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

Existing law generally regulates animals.

This bill would declare the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to protect individuals engaging in work with animal subjects in California.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no

yes . State-mandated local program: no

yes .

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the California Animal Enterprise Protection Act.

SEC. 2. Section 52.6 is added to the Civil Code , to read: 52.6. (a) (1) No person, business, or association shall knowingly publicly post or publicly display on the Internet a home address, home telephone number, or image of any employee of an animal enterprise or other individuals residing at the same home address of the employee of an animal enterprise, with the intent to do either of the following:

(A) Incite a third person to cause imminent great bodily harm to the person identified in the posting or display, or to a coresident of that person, where the third person is likely to commit this harm.

(B) Threaten the person identified in the posting or display, or a coresident of that person, in a manner that places the person identified or the coresident in objectively reasonable fear for his or her personal safety.

(2) An employee of an animal enterprise whose home address, home telephone number, or image is made public as a result of a violation of paragraph (1) may do either or both of the following:

(A) Bring an action seeking injunctive or declarative relief in any court of competent jurisdiction. If a jury or court finds that a violation has occurred, it may grant injunctive or declarative relief and shall award the successful plaintiff court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.

(B) Bring an action for money damages in any court of competent jurisdiction. In addition to any other legal rights or remedies, if a jury or court finds that a violation has occurred, it shall award damages to that individual in an amount up to a maximum of three times the actual damages, but in no case less than four thousand dollars ($4,000).

(b) (1) No person, business, or association shall publicly post or publicly display on the Internet a home address, home telephone number, or image of any employee of an animal enterprise if that individual has made a written demand of that person, business, or association to not disclose his or her home address or home telephone number. A demand made under this paragraph shall include a sworn statement declaring that the person is subject to the protection of this section and describing a reasonable fear for the safety of that individual or of any person residing at the individual's home address, based on a violation of subdivision (a). A written demand made under this paragraph shall be effective for four years, regardless of whether or not the individual's affiliation with an animal enterprise has expired prior to the end of the four-year period.

(2) An employee of an animal enterprise whose home address or home telephone number is made public as a result of a failure to honor a demand made pursuant to paragraph (1) may bring an action seeking injunctive or declarative relief in any court of competent jurisdiction. If a jury or court finds that a violation has occurred, it may grant injunctive or declarative relief and shall award the successful plaintiff court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.

(3) This subdivision shall not apply to a person or entity defined in Section 1070 of the Evidence Code.

(c) (1) No person, business, or association shall solicit, sell, or trade on the Internet a home address, home telephone number, or image of any employee of an animal enterprise with the intent to do either of the following:

(A) Incite a third person to cause imminent great bodily harm to the person identified in the posting or display, or to a coresident of that person, where the third person is likely to commit this harm.

(B) Threaten the person identified in the posting or display, or a coresident of that person, in a manner that places the person identified or the coresident in objectively reasonable fear for his or her personal safety.

(2) An employee of an animal enterprise whose home address, home telephone number, or image is solicited, sold, or traded in violation of paragraph (1) may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction. In addition to any other legal rights and remedies, if a jury or court finds that a violation has occurred, it shall award damages to that individual in an amount up to a maximum of three times the actual damages, but in no case less than four thousand dollars ($4,000).

(d) An interactive computer service or access software provider, as defined in Section 230(f) of Title 47 of the United States Code, shall not be liable under this section unless the service or provider intends to abet or cause bodily harm that is likely to occur or threatens to cause bodily harm to an owner or employee of an animal enterprise or any person residing at the same home address.

(e) Nothing in this section is intended to preclude punishment under any other provision of law.

(f) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:

(1) "Animal enterprise" means any of the following:

(A) A commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, education, research, or testing.

(B) A zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, pet store, breeder, furrier, circus, or rodeo, or other lawful competitive animal event.

(C) Any fair or similar event intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences.

(2) "Image" includes, but is not limited to, any photograph, video footage, sketch, or computer-generated image that provides a means to visually identify the person depicted.

(3) "Publicly post" or "publicly display" means to intentionally communicate or otherwise make available to the general public.

SEC. 3. Section 6254.30 is added to the Government Code , to read: 6254.30. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that this section imposes a limitation on the public's right of access to the meetings of public bodies or the writings of public officials and agencies within the meaning of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution. Pursuant to that constitutional provision, the Legislature makes the following findings to demonstrate the interest protected by this limitation and the need for protecting that interest:

(1) Access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution and Section 6250. The public has a paramount interest in knowing how public money is spent and invested, including how moneys are used to fund research activities.

(2) No researcher should be subject to the risk of threats, assault, or physical harm in order to engage in legal research activities.

(3) Increasingly, individuals who conduct research using animal subjects have become targets of harassment and threats of violence by groups representing themselves as animal rights activists.

(4) Threats of violence, stalking, and vandalism have extended beyond animal researchers to also target their family members and supporters.

(5) The information used to target the victims of these crimes often is obtained by making a request for public records from a government agency.

(6) The high incidence of violence against animal researchers has led some to abandon their work with animal subjects out of fear for themselves and their families.

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to balance the public's right of access to information and the ability of animal researchers to conduct their work without fear of being targets of harassment and threats of violence. This section is not intended to reverse the general presumption of access and openness of the California Public Records Act and subdivision (b) of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution.

(c) It is not the intent of the Legislature to overrule or invalidate any court orders in or stipulated resolutions of prior litigation relating to any public entity's obligation to disclose information about animal research activities, to narrow the information disclosed as a result of those decisions, or to otherwise apply this section retroactively. It is, rather, the intent of the Legislature to establish protocols regarding the public disclosure of records relating to animal research activities so that researchers will be able to continue to conduct research using animal subjects without fear of harassment and threats of violence.

(d) Nothing in this chapter or any other provision of law shall require the disclosure of information relating to animal research activities when there is a reasonable basis to conclude that public disclosure of the records would result in harassment of individuals involved with the research.

SEC. 4. Section 606 is added to the Penal Code , to read: 606. (a) Every person who commits any of the following acts for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise is guilty of a public offense:

(1) By force, threat of force, or physical obstruction that is a crime of violence, intentionally injures, intimidates, interferes with, or attempts to injure, intimidate, or interfere with, any person because that person has a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.

(2) By nonviolent physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates, or interferes with, or attempts to injure, intimidate, or interfere with, any person because that person has a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.

(3) Intentionally damages or destroys the property of a person, entity, or facility, or attempts to do so, because the person, entity, or facility has a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.

(b) (1) A first violation of paragraph (1) or (3) of subdivision

(a) is a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year and a fine not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000).

(2) A second or subsequent violation of paragraph (1) or (3) of subdivision (a) is a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year and a fine not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).

(c) (1) A first violation of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) is a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than six months and a fine not to exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000).

(2) A second or subsequent violation of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) is a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than six months and a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000).

(d) In imposing fines pursuant to this section, the court shall consider applicable factors in aggravation and mitigation set out in Rules 4.421 and 4.423 of the California Rules of Court, and shall consider a prior violation of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (18 U.S.C. Sec. 43), or a prior violation of a statute of another jurisdiction that would constitute a violation of subdivision (a), if committed in this state, or of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, to be a prior violation of subdivision (a).

(e) No person shall be convicted under this section for conduct in violation of subdivision (a) that was done on a particular occasion where the identical conduct on that occasion was the basis for a conviction of that person under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (18 U.S.C. Sec. 43).

(f) The following definitions apply for the purposes of this section and Section 606.1:

(1) "Animal enterprise" means any of the following:

(A) A commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, education, research, or testing.

(B) A zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, pet store, breeder, furrier, circus, or rodeo, or other lawful competitive animal event.

(C) Any fair or similar event intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences.

(2) "Crime of violence" means an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.

(3) "Interfere with" means to restrict a person's freedom of movement.

(4) "Intimidate" means to place a person in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm to herself or himself or to another.

(5) "Nonviolent" means conduct that would not constitute a crime of violence.

(6) "Physical obstruction" means rendering ingress to or egress from an animal enterprise facility or animal enterprise employee's residence impassable to another person, or rendering passage to or from an animal enterprise facility or animal enterprise employee's residence unreasonably difficult or hazardous to another person.

SEC. 5. Section 606.1 is added to the Penal Code , to read: 606.1. (a) A person aggrieved by a violation of Section 606 may bring a civil action to enjoin the violation, for compensatory and punitive damages, and for the costs of suit and reasonable fees for attorneys and expert witnesses. With respect to compensatory damages, the plaintiff may elect, at any time prior to the rendering of a final judgment, to recover, in lieu of actual damages, an award of statutory damages in the amount of one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each exclusively nonviolent violation, and five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each other violation.

(b) An animal enterprise may bring a civil action to enjoin a violation of Section 606, for compensatory and punitive damages for persons who are employees of that animal enterprise who are aggrieved as described in subdivision (a), and for its costs of suit and reasonable fees for attorneys and expert witnesses.

(c) The Attorney General, a district attorney, or a city attorney may bring a civil action to enjoin a violation of Section 606, for compensatory damages to persons aggrieved as described in subdivision (a) and for the assessment of a civil penalty against each respondent. The civil penalty shall not exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000) for an exclusively nonviolent first violation, and fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) for any other first violation, and shall not exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) for an exclusively nonviolent subsequent violation, and twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) for any other subsequent violation. In imposing civil penalties pursuant to this subdivision, the court shall consider a prior violation of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (18 U.S.C. Sec. 43), or a prior violation of a statute of another jurisdiction that would constitute a violation of Section 606, if committed in this state, or of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, to be a prior violation of Section 606.

(d) Actions brought pursuant to this section shall not be subject to any motion brought pursuant to Section 425.16 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

SEC. 6. Section 606.2 is added to the Penal Code , to read: 606.2. (a) The court in which a criminal or civil proceeding is filed for a violation of Section 606 shall take all action reasonably required, including granting restraining orders, to safeguard the health, safety, or privacy of an animal enterprise employee who is a party or witness in the proceeding, or a person who is a victim of, or at risk of becoming a victim of, conduct prohibited by Section 606.

(b) Restraining orders issued pursuant to subdivision (a) may include provisions prohibiting or restricting the photographing of persons described in subdivision (a) when reasonably required to safeguard the health, safety, or privacy of those persons.

(c) A court may, in its discretion, permit an individual described in subdivision (a) to use a pseudonym in a civil proceeding described in subdivision (a) when reasonably required to safeguard the health, safety, or privacy of those persons.

SEC. 7. Section 606.3 is added to the  Penal Code , to read:  606.3. Sections 606, 606.1, and 606.2 shall not be construed to do any of the following:

(a) To impair any constitutionally protected activity, or any activity protected by the laws of this state or of the United States.

(b) To negate, supersede, or otherwise interfere with the operation of any provision of Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1138) of Part 3 of Division 2 of the Labor Code.

(c) To create or to limit any other civil or criminal remedies that redress an activity that interferes with the exercise of any other rights protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or of Article I of the California Constitution.

(d) To preclude prosecution under both this title and any other applicable provision of law, except as provided in subdivision (e) of Section 606.

SEC. 8. No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

SECTION 1. It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to protect individuals engaging in work with animal subjects in California.

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