In Leider v. Lewis, the Supreme Court today holds that it was the district attorney’s job, not that of a private litigant in a taxpayer action, to ask a trial court to find a city zoo had violated Penal Code statutes proscribing animal abuse. The taxpayers’ action in this case asked for injunctive and declaratory relief to stop alleged abuse of elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo. The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan states that prosecutorial discretion is a “fundamental tenet of our criminal justice system” that supports a “reluctance to recognize violations of penal statutes as a basis for the issuance of equitable relief on behalf of private parties.”
The opinion also concludes that an earlier appellate opinion in the litigation did not establish a law of the case precluding the defendant from arguing this was an improper taxpayer action.
The court reverses a 2-1 decision by the Second District, Division Eight, Court of Appeal.