Animal Activist Legal Defense Project
“Today’s animal rights movement is hindered by an unmet need: While relying heavily on activists and insiders to uncover wrongdoing and urge systemic reform, there has historically been a dearth of available legal support. The Animal Activist Legal Defense Project fundamentally alters this state of affairs, with significant and distinctive benefits for the future of the animal rights movement and for the future of animal well-being."
—Professor Justin Marceau, Director, Animal Activist Legal Defense Project
Your support of the Animal Activist Legal Defense Project enables the vital work of our in-house attorneys and staff to continue.
Or mail your gift to:
University of Denver, P.O. Box 910585, Denver, CO 80291-0585
Please be sure to note on your check that you direct your gift to the AALDP.
In recent years, the animal rights movement has brought important and long overdue attention to the conditions in which animals are confined, caged, transported, abused, and killed. Yet for all their successes, animal activists continue to experience significant challenges in securing access to legal representation, including in critical areas such as free speech, civil rights, and criminal defense. The Animal Activist Legal Defense Project (AALDP) at the Sturm College of Law, directed by Professor Justin Marceau, is the only offering at any U.S. law school that provides legal advice and representation to animal activists. As such, the AALDP is the only course that trains future lawyers to represent activists seeking to advance the wellbeing of non-human animals.
Through training, advocacy, and direct client representation, the AALDP seeks to advance a number of vital but contested rights: the right to speak freely about the well-being of non-human animals; the right to document instances of animal cruelty; the right to rescue dying animals; and the right to determine the proper guardianship of helpless creatures. We have expertise in engaging with juries, prosecutors, and the media; in challenging laws that curtail free speech and due process; and in protecting individuals who bear witness to the exploitation of animals across the range of settings in which they suffer, from factory farms to puppy mills to roadside animal zoos.
Subject to governing ethical rules, including those governing the attorney-client relationship, we seek to work with activists, whistleblowers, and investigators in advancing the welfare of non-human animals.
Our approach includes:
- Supporting animal activists in their efforts to elevate awareness and understanding of animal well-being;
- Developing best practices in the counseling and representation of activists, whistleblowers, and investigators;
- Catalyzing a network of attorneys positioned to advance the welfare of non-human animals;
- Exploring new and compelling narratives designed to elevate understanding of animal suffering;
- Partnering with key stakeholders and supporters, including, without limitation, plant-based and other humane producers, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, labor activists, reformist professional associations, and environmental organizations; and
- Forging a more inclusive, populist, and activist-centered animal welfare movement.
- While the AALDP cannot agree to take cases without screening, we are eager to hear from activists in need of our assistance. Please contact the AALDP.
In sum, the AALDP seeks to fundamentally reorient what it means to be an animal lawyer, to reframe what lawyers can do to better support activists, and to serve as the world’s leading site for activist defense, advocacy, and coalition building.
The Animal Activist Legal Defense Project at the University of Denver is led by Professor Justin Marceau.
Since graduating from Harvard Law School in 2004, Professor Marceau has frequently advised activists and investigators, including in litigation that successfully challenged ag-gag laws in the context of industrial farming practices. He is the author of the acclaimed book Beyond Cages (Cambridge University Press, 2018), which questions the prosecutorial orientation of animal welfare efforts. His forthcoming book, Undercover Investigations and Democracy, demonstrates how investigations have emerged as an essential tool for advocates in a variety of movements. Professor Marceau is also a leading criminal law scholar, with a textbook on habeas corpus and numerous scholarly articles. He served as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School in 2019 and at the University of California Irvine in 2020. He is a member of the American Law Institute, the most prestigious, invitation-only organization for law professors.
The core work of the AALDP is done by Staff Attorney Chris Carraway.
Chris Carraway is an attorney and an activist. Before joining the AALDP, he was a lead attorney in the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender. There, Chris defended cases ranging from low-level misdemeanors to first-degree murder, participated in over 60 jury trials, and litigated cases in the Colorado Court of Appeals and Colorado Supreme Court. Chris graduated from Georgetown University Law Center, where he was president of the student chapters for the National Lawyers Guild and the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. Before that, Chris began his involvement in animal rights activism in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina—doing outreach, defendant and prisoner support, and organizing local campaigns against the selling of foie gras and fur. Witnessing the criminalization of animal rights activism in the 00’s compelled him to go to law school. Chris brings his experience as a defense attorney and his passion for animal rights to the Animal Activist Legal Defense Project.
The Project is supported by intern Esther Afolaranmi who is a visiting attorney and scholar from Nigeria.
Esther has a business and human rights background and will bring a crucial voice and perspective that will help guide the AALDP to align with larger social justice movements across the globe that may choose to engage in similar work.
The AALDP is also supported by Assistant Director for Community Initiatives Jenipher Jones Bonino.
Jenipher is Partner and Director of Litigation, Strategy, and Advocacy at O'Connor, Jones, LLC: A People's Law Firm. Jenipher began her career in civil and human rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center, under an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship of Harvard University. Jenipher has worked on accountability issues involving law enforcement, including a clerkship at the City of New Orleans Office of the Independent Police Monitor (OIPM). She has also practiced at the National Employment Litigation Unit (NELU) of the United States Postal Service, handling class action employment discrimination matters.
Carter Dillard, Director of Strategic Initiatives, will also support the AALDP.
Carter began his career as an Honors Program appointee to the U.S. Department of Justice, eventually practicing national security law with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, At NYU he wrote his thesis under Jeremy Waldron. Carter is author of Justice as a Fair Start in Life (Eliva Press, 2021), which argues that real justice cannot be realized unless all children have a fair start in life, both socially and ecologically.
Jenipher Jones Bonino is Partner and Director of Litigation, Strategy, and Advocacy at O'Connor, Jones, LLC: A People's Law Firm. Jenipher began her career in civil and human rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center, under an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship of Harvard University. Jenipher has worked on accountability issues involving law enforcement, including a clerkship at the City of New Orleans Office of the Independent Police Monitor (OIPM). She has also practiced at the National Employment Litigation Unit (NELU) of the United States Postal Service, handling class action employment discrimination matters.
Cheryl Leahy is the executive director of Animal Outlook, a national nonprofit animal protection organization. She is responsible for the development and oversight of investigations, litigation and policy, and effecting mainstream corporate and cultural change to shift away from animal products and reduce the suffering of farmed animals. Cheryl earned her B.A. from the University of Chicago in Environmental Studies and her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law.
Vida Moazez is a consultant and strategic finance collaborator. Vida has over 20 years of finance experience, including working at a CPA firm, Fortune 100 company, start-ups, and several non-profit organizations. She has volunteered at various animal protection organizations and supports sanctuaries. She is dedicated to supporting mutual aid and food justice issues. She has participated in community organizing and connecting organizations with resources. Vida received her degree from CSU Northridge in Accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant in California.
Vida is also an active member and contributor in other social justice movements including people impacted by incarceration, indigenous rights, refugee assistance, and queer liberation. Vida is passionate about strategically solving problems, serving both human and non-human animals alike.
Amy Trakinski is Managing Director of VegInvest, where she leads investments and oversees a portfolio of more than 40 early-stage food and biotech companies, both in the US and abroad, that are striving to replace the use of animals. Previously, Amy practiced animal law with the firm Egert and Trakinski, litigating on behalf of national animal protection organizations, grassroots groups and individual activists. She received her BA from Binghamton University and her JD from the Cardozo School Law and serves on the boards of Animal Outlook and Wild Earth.
Animal Activist News & Media
Do Animals Have Rights? KALW Public Media, May 17, 2023
The fight against factory farming is winning criminal trials. Vox, Mar. 21, 2023
Two Animal Activists Found Not Guilty Friday in Merced, FOX26 News KMPH - Fresno-Visalia, Mar. 17, 2023
Opinion: Rescuing Farm Animals From Cruelty Should Be Legal. The New York Times, Feb. 14, 2023
'You're shooting yourself in the foot': Pig trial jurors reveal what went on in deliberations. St. George News, Jan. 20, 2023
Opinion: I Did Not Steal Two Piglets. I Saved Them. A Jury Agreed. The New York Times, Oct. 18, 2022
Animal Rights Activists Are Acquitted in Smithfield Piglet Case, The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2022
Protest movements could be more effective than the best charities. To do as much good as possible with limited resources, funders should look to woefully underfunded protest movements.James Ozden, Social movement researcher, author at the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and founder of the Social Change Lab.