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United States v. Molt

Citation: 10 ELR 20777
No. No. 79-2409, 631 F.2d 258/(3d Cir., 07/17/1980)

The court reverses appellant's conviction for importation of an endangered species of tortoise, ruling that § 9 of the Endangered Species Act is unconstitutionally vague. Section 9(b)(1) of the Act excepts endangered species held in captivity on December 28, 1973 from the general prohibition against importation. The second clause of the subsection provides that "this subsection" shall not apply to animals held in the course of a commercial activity. One possible interpretation of these two provisions is that § 9 does not prohibit the importation of endangered wildlife held for a commercial purpose on December 28, 1973. Another possible reading is that the exception for wildlife held on the date of enactment is inapplicable to those held for commercial purposes. Without resolving this conflict, the court concludes that the provision does not provide prospective violators with fair notice as to what conduct it prohibits, and thus it must be struck down.

Counsel for Appellant
Gilbert B. Abramson
Silverman & Abramson
1260 Locust St., Philadelphia PA 19106
(215) 546-4840

Counsel for Appellee
Angus MacBeth, Dirk D. Snel, David C. Shilton
Lands and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4400

Peter F. Vaira, U.S. Attorney; thomas E. Mellon Jr., Ass't U.S. Attorney
3310 U.S. Cthse., 601 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19106
(215) 592-2556

Before Seitz & Gibbons, JJ.