On Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the country’s largest federal court, condemned the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and founder Paul Watson as modern-day pirates for the actions they take against Japan’s whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. This is the same court that issued an injunction in December for the extreme activists to stay at least 500 yards away from Japan’s ships, an order that has obviously been ignored several times now.
The three-judge panel was in agreement of the labeling, with Chief Judge Alex Kozinski writing “When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.” Prior to the injunction, a Seattle trial judge had sided with Sea Shepherd by throwing out a lawsuit filed by Japanese whalers looking to put a stop to the group’s dangerous, aggressive actions, including intentionally steering ships into their path. U.S. District Judge Richard Jones said the activist’s tactics were nonviolent as they targeted ships and equipment rather than people.
The federal appeals court decided that Jones’ ruling was “off base” and ordered the case to be transferred to another Seattle judge. Jones’ dismissal was also based on his view that the Japanese whalers were violating an Australian court order banning the lethal hunt, and thus could not file a lawsuit in the U.S. Kozinski said that the Seattle judge had misinterpreted Australia’s ruling, as it didn’t address the actions taken by Sea Shepherd. The appeals judge added that Jones’ “serious and obvious errors” raised serious concerns about whether he could be impartial in presiding over such a high-profile case.