From Wolves to Horses to Dogs, This Big Law Partner Has Built a Practice Exclusively Defending Animals

Jenna Greene, The Litigation Daily

Bruce Wagman, Behind the Scenes Warrior for Wild Horses & Burros

“It is a very sincere pleasure to share with you this article about our legal consultant and my longtime friend, Bruce Wagman.  Bruce was the attorney that we pleaded with, almost a decade ago, to research for Terry and myself ways to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from zeroing out federally protected wild horse herds.  With no organization to back us up and zero history to bolster our dedication to the cause Bruce took up our case and to this day was the silent partner and legal consultant behind our BLM Long Term Holding White Paper…and there is more to come.  Thank you Bruce for all that you do for those who are recognized only as property and even if they could speak, would not be allowed to.  You are the voice for millions.  Rock On my brother!” ~ R.T.


Schiff Hardin‘s Bruce Wagman with dogs Kazi (left) and Tatu at his home in Stinson Beach, CA. Jason Doiy

Schiff Hardin partner Bruce Wagman has the best client list ever: birds, cats, chickens, chimpanzees, cows, deer, dogs, dolphins, ducks, elephants, elk, gorillas, horses, lions, mice, monkeys, pigs, sharks, turkeys, whales and wolves.

Okay, technically they’re not his clients, because, well, animals can’t hire lawyers.

But Wagman, who plausibly asserts he is the only Big Law partner in the country focusing exclusively on animal law, has carved out a unique practice defending and improving the lives of animals.

On Tuesday, he and Schiff Hardin partner Elizabeth Runyan Geise, along with co-counsel from the Humane Society of the United States, scored a big win when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a lower court decision protecting gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

They challenged a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule de-listing the wolves as a protected group under the Endangered Species Act.

The panel—Judges Thomas Griffith, Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard—held that the agency failed to reasonably consider the impact of partial delisting on the remaining portion of the species, as well the impact of historical range loss. Their decision will save the wolves from trophy hunting and commercial trapping, including hound hunting, snares, baiting, electronic calls and the use of leg hold traps.

Per the Endangered Species Act, the prevailing lawyers are entitled to an award of legal fees. Still, Wagman acknowledged one ongoing “tension” in his practice is getting paid. Because in addition to being unable to hire lawyers, animals don’t have any money.

But his partners at 300-lawyer Schiff Hardin have been “incredibly supportive,” he said. Wagman previously practiced with 35-lawyer Morgenstein & Jubelirer in San Francisco, which merged with Schiff Hardin in 2007. “I was in the right place at the right time” to build the practice, he said. “I’ve slowly picked up more and more clients.”

In 2015 when he was honored by the ABA’s Animal Law Committee, Wagman wrote, “I expected my tenure there would last a couple of years at most, and that this Chicago-based firm would not want this animal law weirdo as a partner. Well, I could not have been more wrong. … The firm’s validation of the work has been overwhelming and consistent.”

Among his big cases: defending a California law requiring humane treatment of animals too sick or injured to stand or walk; stopping commercial horse slaughter for human consumption; suing the federal government to stop untested surgical sterilization “research” on wild mares; upholding a ban on the possession or sale of shark fins in California; and negotiating the release of chimpanzees used for medical research. He also helped found two permanent sanctuaries for them.

Some of Wagman’s work, especially the big-impact litigation, is pro bono, he said. Some is “low bono,” for reduced fees. And some is full-fee work for private clients, including dog bite cases and custody fights over pets.

Under the law, pets are considered to be property—a discovery that people who call Wagman up wanting to sue for emotional distress after someone kills their dog find dismaying, he said.

“It’s ripe for change, but change is slow,” he said. Still, he sees subtle signs that more judges are taking into account what’s best for the pet in custody fights, looking beyond indicia of ownership. Who walks the dog? Who has a yard? “It’s happening without anyone realizing it’s happening,” he said.

http://www.litigationdaily.com/id=1202794647496/From-Wolves-to-Horses-to-Dogs-This-Big-Law-Partner-Has-Built-a-Practice-Exclusively-Defending-Animals?slreturn=20170704070805

9 comments on “From Wolves to Horses to Dogs, This Big Law Partner Has Built a Practice Exclusively Defending Animals

  1. Thank You for helping the animals! You’re a good person, we need more People with the compassion you have. Awesome!! ❤️

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  2. if only we cold stop these rogue agencies for good wed save 150 mil a yr trumps number are of and of course they lll repeat lies of overpopulation and range destruction that has to stop im very worried about our horses fate. ty for all u do i never saw this until yest. Wildlife Services and U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee whistleblowers as well as Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, who has repeatedly called to audit and defund the agency. DeFazio calls Wildlife Services “one of the most opaque and least accountable agencies I know of.”

    In her review, Goodall writes that after watching Exposed, “two emotions vie with each other: First, horror that cruelty of this magnitude and scale has been perpetrated, for so long, in the name of the American government. And second, great admiration for the brave men who, jeopardizing personal safety and future employment, spoke out against the atrocities that they saw perpetrated, and admitted having perpetrated themselves.”

    “Millions of Americans” will learn through watching the film, Goodall writes, “of the unforgivable actions of those who have exercised their power to cause untold agony to thousands of innocent fellow creatures on our planet.”

    Exposed can be seen on the Predator Defense website at predatordefense.org/exposed. Or contact Predator Defense at 937-4261 or info@predatordefense.org to arrange a showing.

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  3. Thank you, Mr. Wagman. Your actions and dedication prove you have a a big heart. The simple words, “thank you” just don’t seem to be enough for all you do and this also goes out to everyone who work so hard to make things better in our world. Thank you.

    Like

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