“The AETA wants you to think that 1st Amendment rights are respected. However, it stands the 1st Amendment on its head,” Odette Wilkens, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Alliance, as she spoke to an audience of students, staff, and area attorneys on Wednesday, April 4th in Room L119 on Widener Law’s Delaware campus.
The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
hosted Wilkens for the event, which examined the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Following an introduction from student Phylicia McFaddin, Ms. Wilkens presented a comprehensive look at the AETA, which was passed on September 29, 2006 in the United States Senate and on November 13, 2006, the bill passed the House of Representatives under the suspension of the rules procedure used to pass non-controversial bills quickly without a vote.
The talk looked at issues of liberty and security related to terrorism as well as whether or not animal testing protests could rightly be called terrorism. Wilkens also spoke about major test cases, including United States v. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, the infamous “SHAC 7” case in which six of the seven original defendants were charged and convicted of conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act that the AETA amended, as well as conspiracy to harass using a telecommunications device.
She also touched on the impending challenge to the AETA that was filled in December 2011; Blum, Shapiro, Lehr, Gazzola and Johnson v. Holder in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Following the presentation, Ms. Wilkens showed a few short video clips and then took questions from the audience.
Formerly the Assistant Corporate Secretary for HBO and associate counsel at leading technology law firm Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner, Odette Wilkens is now the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Alliance. The mission of the Equal Justice Alliance is to repeal the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. She is also a member of the Committee of Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals of the New York City Bar Association and has spoke at numerous law schools, bar associations, and legal conferences about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act’s deleterious impact on civil liberties.