SOURCE: Ivory Education Institute

August 08, 2016 12:30 ET

State Ban on Ivory Trade Challenged in Lawsuit

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - August 08, 2016) - California's law prohibiting the sale of nearly all privately owned ivory objects is rife with major constitutional flaws, according to a brief seeking a summary judgment filed on Monday (Aug. 8) in Superior Court by the Ivory Education Institute.

"The law punishes California citizens for problems caused by poachers and smugglers in Africa and East Asia," said Godfrey Harris, managing director of the Ivory Education Institute, a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting better understanding of the importance of ivory. "Forbidding Californians who own or inherit ivory from disposing of their possessions -- which range from chess pieces and jewelry to musical instruments and gun grips -- renders their private property worthless without due process of law. Moreover, there is not a shred of evidence that this will save the life of one African elephant."

Harris added, "Why have the groups defending this lawsuit refused to explain to the public how a law forbidding our artisans and craftsmen from working mammoth, mastodon or fossilized walrus ivory -- animals that have been extinct for tens of thousands of years -- is going to change attitudes in China and elsewhere in East Asia?"

According to the lawsuit (BC602584), Assembly Bill 96, now codified as Section 2022 of the California Fish and Wildlife Code, violates the Constitution by interfering with the federal government's exclusive power over U.S. foreign affairs. The lawsuit notes that the U.S. already protects elephants and other ivory-bearing animals through various treaties and laws, rendering the California law duplicative and superfluous.

The lawsuit also laments the fact that great masterpieces containing ivory black pigment (used by countless artists including Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Picasso) falls under the law's prohibitions. "Why should California's culture today be penalized for artistic choices made centuries ago?" Harris asked.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for November 8 in the courtroom of Judge William F. Fahey.

In the legal brief, the Institute contends that Section 2022 "is an example of improper, absolutely unnecessary, and unconstitutional legislating that is little more than an expensive and showy publicity effort."

Contact Information

  • Ivory Education Institute
    520 S. Sepulveda Blvd., #204, Los Angeles CA 90049-3534
    Godfrey Harris
    managing director