Pa. gun club facing complaint over pigeon shoots again asks for suit's dismissal

By Jon Campisi | Jul 19, 2012

A suburban Philadelphia sporting organization being sued by a water quality advocacy

A suburban Philadelphia sporting organization being sued by a water quality advocacy

group is again asking a federal judge to dismiss a complaint against it, asserting that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring an action against the defendant under the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act.

In a motion filed July 13 at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, lawyers for The Philadelphia Gun Club request the dismissal of an amended complaint by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and its head, Maya K. Van Rossum, against the Bensalem, Pa.-based sports club over allegations that live pigeon shoots held by the organization are compromising the health of the Delaware River.

The plaintiffs argue that the pigeon shoots, which are still legal in Pennsylvania, not only affect the water quality of the Delaware, but also put those using the waterway recreationally in jeopardy.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network first filed suit back on March 30. The gun club filed a motion to dismiss in late June.

On June 27, U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez granted a motion by the plaintiffs requesting an extension of time by which to respond to the gun club’s motion to dismiss. It gave the water advocacy group until July 17 to respond to the dismissal motion.

Then, on July 10, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief.

Last Friday’s motion by the gun club, which was filed by attorneys with Berwyn, Pa.-based Land Air Water Legal Solutions LLC, seeks to have the amended complaint dismissed with prejudice.

In a memorandum of law in support of its motion to dismiss, the gun club claims that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which seeks to obtain federal court jurisdiction over the activities of the club by invoking the citizen suit provision of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, a/k/a the Clean Water Act, is actually taking issue with the pigeon shoots over their supposedly cruel nature.

The memorandum says that at its heart, “the Plaintiffs’ case is an attempt to use the CWA to redress animal rights grievances, which belong in the province of the Pennsylvania legislature.”

The memorandum continues: “The direct and logical consequence of granting Plaintiffs federal court jurisdiction and their requested relief in this matter will be the imposition of CWA permitting on all duck blinds along the shore of the Delaware River, including those managed by the federal government … Congress, in enacting the CWA, never contemplated nor authorized such an absurd result.”

The memorandum goes on to state that at this point in the proceedings, the gun club challenges the jurisdiction of the federal court to hear the dispute because the plaintiffs lack standing to maintain their civil action.

In the motion, the defendant claims that the plaintiffs have failed to establish that they have sustained or are in imminent peril of sustaining an injury, and that the plaintiffs have not established that any alleged injury is “fairly traceable” to the gun club’s activities.

The motion also says that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has failed to identify any individual member who has been affected in a “personal and individual” way by the gun club’s activities, as required by the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs claim in their lawsuit that the allegedly toxic materials from shotgun ammunition, as well as the pigeon carcasses themselves, are polluting the waterway.

Pennsylvania remains one of the only states left in the nation that allows the shooting of live pigeons for a sport other than hunting.

A status conference on the matter has been scheduled for July 30.

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