Trump Lawyers Attempt to Sue an Environmental Philosophy under Anti-Racketeering Laws

“You Can’t Sue an Idea,” Say Activists

December 5, 2017, New York, NY – On behalf of the environmental magazine the Earth First! Journal, the Center for Constitutional Rights urged a court to dismiss parts of a lawsuit brought by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Energy Transfer Equity (ETE). ETP and ETE are part-owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and have attempted to sue the broad social movement known as Earth First! for racketeering. The ludicrous allegations in the complaint, filed yesterday, drafted by Trump’s law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, claim that Earth First! funded a violent terrorist presence at the Standing Rock protests with $500,000 and proceeds from drug sales on the site, and is part of a sprawling conspiracy with Greenpeace and other environmental groups to deceive the public about the environmental risks of pipelines.

Today’s filing points out that the plaintiff pipeline companies themselves admit Earth First! is a “philosophy” or “movement” with “no members” or “formal leadership”; as a matter of law, therefore, it cannot be sued. Trump’s lawyers nonetheless attempted to serve the movement Earth First! by mailing a complaint to the offices of the Earth First! Journal in Lake Worth, Florida, a small collective typically made up of two to five staff members.

“We got this 187-page legal document in the mail that didn’t even mention the Journal,” said Earth First! Journal editor Ryan Hartman. “Earth First! is a philosophy based on biocentrism, direct action, and not compromising with Earth-destroying corporations when fighting for the environment.  It is an idea that for over 35 years has been followed and held dear by individuals and groups all over the world. You can’t sue an idea.”

Advocates say the suits are part of the ongoing labeling of social activism as terrorism, from environmental and animal rights activism to the Black Lives Matter movement. “I can’t decide what’s the most ridiculous aspect of this case: calling protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline terrorism, or sending the complaint to our clients,” said Shayana Kadidal, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “I guess Kasowitz couldn’t find the address for the entire environmental movement, so they settled for harassing an environmental publication with their preposterous claims.”

The filing comes one week after two other environmental groups, Greenpeace and BankTrack, asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that their work in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline is protected free speech.

For more information about the case, visit CCR’s case page.

The Earth First! Journal is a quarterly magazine. Each issue contains reports on direct action in defense of the environment, articles on the preservation of wilderness and biological diversity, and news about Earth First! and other radical environmental movements. The Earth First! Journal Collective also publishes a quarterly newsletter and online Newswire. Visit and follow @efjournal.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

December 5, 2017