Dec 192014

The Ninth Circuit has found Sea Shepherd, founder Paul Watson and six volunteer members of the Sea Shepherd US board in contempt of court for violating an injunction that forbade the group's ships from coming within 500 yards of Japanese whaling ships (Institute of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd, 12-35266).

Order and amended opinion from May 24, 2013  |  Tweets

"Our thorough review of the record in this case, and the concessions of counsel at oral argument, compel us to hold Sea Shepherd US, Watson, and Sea Shepherd US’s volunteer board members in contempt for violating our injunction," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and Circuit Judges A. Wallace Tashima and Milan D. Smith said in their 51-page opinion, on which Smith took the lead.


Here's the opinion's first paragraph:

Institute of Cetacean Research (Cetacean), Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, Ltd., Tomoyuki Ogawa, and Toshiyuki Miura (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed this
contempt proceeding against Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (Sea Shepherd US), its founder Paul Watson, its administrative director Susan Hartland, and six volunteer members of the Sea Shepherd US board (collectively, Defendants). The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants violated our injunction prohibiting Sea Shepherd US, Watson, and “any party acting in concert with them” from physically attacking or coming within 500 yards of the Plaintiffs’ whaling and fueling vessels on the open sea.

Excerpts from the end (Full opinion embedded below)

We hold that the Plaintiffs are entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs incurred in bringing and prosecuting these contempt proceedings. “[T]he cost of bringing the violation to the attention of the court is part of the damages suffered by the prevailing party and those costs would reduce any benefits gained by the prevailing party from the court’s violated order.” Perry v. O’Donnell, 759 F.2d 702, 705 (9th Cir. 1985). At a minimum, the Plaintiffs shall recover their fees and costs against Sea Shepherd US and Watson. The Plaintiffs are also entitled to compensation for any actual damages suffered and resources (such as fuel and personnel costs) that were wasted as a result of the Defendants’ contumacious acts interfering with the Plaintiffs’ mission. We will re-refer this matter to the Appellate Commissioner to determine the appropriate amount of attorney’s fees and costs as well as compensatory damages to award. The Commissioner shall determine whether the volunteer directors should also be held liable, and the extent to which each of them should be held liable, jointly and/or severally.

The Plaintiffs’ requests for coercive sanctions and an order to compel compliance should be directed to the district court. Our opinion of February 25, 2013, as amended May 24, 2013, provided that the preliminary injunction “will remain in effect until further order of this court.” Inst. of Cetacean Research, 725 F.3d at 947. However, we issued our mandate on June 7, 2013, at which time the district court assumed supervision over the Defendants’ present compliance with the preliminary injunction. While we retain jurisdiction to order remedial relief for acts of contempt that took place prior to the issuance of our mandate, because these coercive sanctions are forward-looking, we believe that policing the Defendants’ continuing compliance with the preliminary injunction is better left to the district court, subject to our review on appeal. This panel retains jurisdiction over all appeals in this case.

Author info

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