Judge Confirms $600,000 Libel Award and Finds Fault with Environmentalists
Alliance for America
(Tucson, Arizona - 3/2/05) Judge Richard Fields entered formal judgment on March 2, 2005 against the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental activist corporation, and found that they must pay $600,000 in actual and punitive damages to Arizona rancher Jim Chilton and the Chilton Ranch and Cattle Company.
The formal judgment confirmed a Tucson jury’s verdict, delivered on January 21, 2005, finding the Center for Biological Diversity guilty of making “false, unfair, libelous and defamatory statements” against Jim Chilton, a fifth generation Arizona rancher whose pioneering ancestors drove cattle into Arizona in the 1880’s. The jury awarded Chilton $100,000 in actual damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages because the
Center for Biological Diversity defamed him and his family business in a two-page press release which included links to 21 photographs posted on the Center’s website, from July 2002 until July 2003.
In his ruling, Judge Fields entered a formal judgment declaring that the Center and its employees “made false statements” in their press release. The judge also found that the press release “contained misleading photographs” and “did not accurately describe the condition” of Chilton’s 21,500 acre Forest Service grazing allotment, located northwest of Nogales, Arizona.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a high profile environmental activist corporation, has written many petitions leading to the listing of species as endangered.
Scientists have questioned whether some of these species are actually endangered. At trial, the Center claimed to have filed over 170 lawsuits against federal agencies. According to Chilton, these lawsuits have stopped school construction, terminated thousands of lumber production jobs, put Arizona and New Mexico communities into economic distress, and driven many western ranchers to the verge of bankruptcy. Kraig Marton, an attorney from the Phoenix-based law firm of Jaburg and Wilk, who represented Chilton when he fought back, stated “this case shows how pictures can lie”, said Marton. “We are very pleased with the ruling”, he added, and noted “it is about time that the tables were turned on this group”.
Chilton said the suit was filed to challenge the way the Center for Biological Diversity consistently does business. “They don’t use science, they just wear people down and drive them out of business”, said Chilton. “They routinely use endangered species to raise money and fund their attacks on the cowboy and the western culture.” Chilton has also stated that after his expenses for this lawsuit are covered, he plans to donate the remaining money to the Arizona Cattle Growers Association to help spread the word that modern ranching conserves habitat for wildlife, increases biodiversity, and reduces threats of wildfire.
At trial, the jury was shown the photographs disseminated by the Center that focused on tiny barren areas and implied that the range had been devastated by cattle.
Chilton’s lawyer put up photographs taken from the same sites looking north, south, east, and west that revealed a vibrant and thriving environment. Experts testified that the allotment had been well managed by the Chiltons and, in fact, had been written up by leading range scientists as a “Success Story”, in the professional journal, Rangelands.
The jury agreed with Chilton’s claims, finding that the Center knowingly disseminated false and malicious statements in a news advisory, and that misleading photographs were used to harm the Chiltons after the Center’s unsuccessful attempt to block the renewal of Chilton’s grazing permit.
Chilton, who felt elated and vindicated, said the jury had done an admirable job of understanding days of scientific testimony. “This case will help the public become aware that ranchers support real recovery of endangered species because quality habitat makes quality ranches.”
Chilton emphasized that this case demonstrates the need to strengthen the Endangered Species Act to close loopholes that have allowed groups like the Center for Biological Diversity to make money by suing the federal government. It was revealed at trial that the Center collected over $990,000 in 2003 from lawsuits it filed, mostly against the government. Chilton decried the Center’s list-and-sue policy as preventing the agencies and landowners from actually working to recover species.
According to Chilton, “Now is the time to get recovery results from the Endangered Species Act by requiring peer-reviewed science for listings, providing incentives for landowners, recreationalists and rural businesses to preserve open space and improve habitat for species”. Chilton concluded that “we must actually recover species, not just play the game of listing them to put money in activist coffers and put Americans out of work”.
For more information regarding this case, please contact Kraig Marton at (602) 248 - 1017 or (602) 570 3510 or PRfect Media at (480) 706-6880.
Jury Awards $600,000 to Arizona Rancher
Environmental Group Found Libel for False Statements and Accusations
Alliance for America
(Tucson) A Tucson jury today found the Center for Biological
Diversity, a well-known environmental group, guilty of making "false,
unfair, libelous and defamatory statements" against Jim Chilton, a
fifth generation Southern Arizona Rancher.
In a judgment announced during the noon hour, the jury awarded Chilton
$100,000 in actual damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages for
defaming him and his family business in a two-page press release and 21
photographs posted on the Center's website in July 2002 that were false
and misleading regarding Chilton's 21,500 acre Montana grazing
Allotment northwest of Nogales.
"This case is more about the truth than about money. After all
expenses have been covered, I am going to donate all the remaining
money to the Arizona Cattle Growers Association to be used for the
truth and responsibility for cattle grazing issues", said Chilton.
The suit was filed, according to Chilton, because he wanted to
challenge the way the Center for Biological Diversity does business.
"They don't use science, they use scare tactics," said Chilton. "They
also use endangered species as surrogates to obtain their own goals and
to raise money," he added. According to last year's annual statement,
the Center for Biological Diversity has an annual budget of $2.9
million, and assets of $2.4 million. The jury agreed with Chilton's
claim, citing the Center did make false statements in a news advisory,
and that misleading photographs were used in an unsuccessful effort to
block renewal of Chilton's grazing permit. The jury also cited that
the Center did not accurately describe the condition of the grazing
The judge in the case asked the jury specific questions related to the
claim, in which the jury responded in favor of Chilton.
"It's not very common for a rancher to sue an environmental group.
But in this case, they attacked my client personally and misstated the
facts," said Kraig Marton, Chilton's attorney. "We are very pleased
with the jury's decision and judgment," said Marton.
The lawsuit named not only the Center for Biological Diversity, but
also three of its current and former employees: Martin Taylor, author
of the release; Shane Jimerfield, the Web site designer who posted it;
and A.J. Schneller, who was responsible for some photos and captions,
and Kieran Suckling, the Executive Director of the Center who, Marton
says, set the tone for making the false statements.
For more information regarding this lawsuit, contact Kraig Marton at
(602) 570-3510 or PRfect Media at (480) 706-6880.