Legal wrangling continues as the temporary rope barrier separating harbor seals from humans at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool is set to come down as expected May 15 at the conclusion of the animal’s pupping season.
On April 28, a ruling by federal judge William Q. Hayes was filed dismissing a complaint by seal advocates who had sought to get the courts to strike down a judgment by the National Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service that the city of San Diego does not require a federal permit to “remove nuisance animals” from La Jolla’s Children’s Pool.
“This court has no jurisdiction to proceed against the federal defendants,” said Hayes’ in his ruling.
“The city gave us 30 days after the rope comes down on May 15 to file briefs on the jurisdictional issue,” said Bryan Pease, an attorney for the Animal Protection and Rescue League.
Paul Kennerson, an attorney representing client Valerie O’Sullivan who is seeking to have seals removed from the pool as a violation of its trust status and the pool restored to its original condition as a safe children’s wading area, applauded Hayes’ decision.
“Pease’s lawsuit in federal court got thrown out,” Kennerson said. “The court said you have no right to sue as a private citizen to force a government entity to enforce the Marine Mammal Protection Act to have the city get a permit to disperse the seals. They (court) said the matter of the permit was up to the discretion of the (federal) department.”
A bill, SB 428, which would make seal habitation of La Jolla’s Children’s Pool a permitted use there, is currently working its way through the state legislature.
Kennerson argues there are “huge legal problems” with that proposed legislation. ‘I dispute the legislature’s right to amend the statute,” he said. “The legislature is trying to mandate a use that the court has found is absolutely inconsistent with a bathing pool for children.”
Pease added a very real possibility exists that by the time state legislation takes effect allowing seals to inhabit the pool, the seals might already have been dispersed by state court order.