Protesters file injunction in U.S. District Court against Ann Arbor deer cull

Sunday, January 10, 2016 - 6:32pm

Ann Arbor’s deer cull, which aims to manage the city's growing deer population by killing a portion of it, may be stopped in its tracks by new legal action against the city.

On Friday, plaintiffs of the Sanzotta v. The City of Ann Arbor court case filed a temporary restraining order application against the City of Ann Arbor in the United States District Court in Detroit. The motion attempts to cease all action toward the deer cull, which could begin as early as Jan. 1.

The court will hear arguments from legal representatives of the plaintiffs, city and U.S. Department of Agriculture — the department’s Wildlife Services is conducting the cull —Monday.

Should the court rule in favor of the plaintiffs and grant a preliminary injunction — a legally binding court order granted before the resolution of a lawsuit — the City of Ann Arbor would be forced to halt the cull until the lawsuit is resolved, even if the suit goes to trial. To achieve this, the plaintiffs will have to prove to the presiding judge they are likely to win if the case goes forward.

The lawsuit claims the deer cull will create a public safety hazard and sidesteps state laws that prohibit hunters from carrying silenced weapons, which the USDA shooters hired to carry out the cull will be carrying.

The Ann Arbor City Government website outlines the deer management program and asserts measures have been taken to manage safety concerns.

“The deer cull will be performed by highly experienced USDA sharpshooters who are specially trained to conduct culls in urban settings with precision, accuracy and safety as top priorities,” the city website states. “(The cull) will not include allowing the discharge of firearms by hunters, residents or visitors at any time within city limits.”

Barry Powers, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, said in an interview he was confident the Ann Arbor administration lacks legal grounds to conduct the cull and that he would be able to achieve a favorable ruling on Monday.

“If the city had a position that would have been formidable, they would’ve brought it out by now,” said Powers. “We don’t believe the city has a good precedent to support what it hopes to do.”

Powers said the lack of a preliminary injunction against the cull would be more damaging than if one were to be granted because the consequences of the former would be irreversible.

“The government doesn’t stand to lose too much (if the preliminary injunction is granted),” Powers said, “whereas if the status quo isn’t frozen, then the plaintiffs will be severely injured because they will have lost peace and lost the right to not have wildlife killed in their backyard.”

Stephen Postema, Ann Arbor City Attorney, was unavailable for comment Sunday. In an interview with the Ann Arbor News on Saturday, Postema maintained his belief of the the cull was legal and said the city will mount legal arguments in court on Monday.