U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes recently recommended denying Miami Seaquarium’s $2.56 million request to pay its counsel, Greenberg Traurig LLP, for defending a lawsuit over Lolita because it could jeopardise future lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Peta had asked the court in July 2015 to force the Seaquarium to surrender Lolita for relocation to a new home, arguing her continued captivity constituted a taking under the ESA but while Lolita shares the endangered listing status of the orca population she came from, it does not impact her residence at the Miami Seaquarium.
Judge Otazo-Reyes said the Seaquarium’s request for fees and costs should be denied because Peta’s lawsuit was not frivolous. The group, alongside Orca Network, presented evidence that Lolita suffered harm and though its claims did not survive summary judgment, they were sufficiently meritorious to receive careful attention and review by the court. The case lasted less than 11 months and never went to trial.