Judge tells Holley FD to get a lawyer in Squirrel Slam lawsuit
ALBION – The Holley Fire Department was strongly urged to hire a lawyer in a case against the department with the annual Squirrel Slam hunting contest.
The Fire Department has been sued in a case brought by Lauren Sheive of Williamson in Wayne County. She is being represented pro bono by the Winston & Strawn LLP firm in New York City.
Three attorneys from Winston & Strawn appeared in court today in Albion.
Francis Gaylord, president of the Holley Fire Department, appeared in State Supreme Court without an attorney.
Judge James Punch urged Gaylord to have a lawyer check the legal filings in the case and prepare a response.
“It’s very advisable to have counsel for any legal proceeding,” Punch told Gaylord in court. “This can get very complicated.”
Gaylord said the department has reached out to Jeff Martin of Holley. Punch said Martin would have two weeks to respond to the court filings from Winston & Strawn LLP. The next court appearance was scheduled for 11 a.m. on April 10.
Today was the first court appearance in Albion for the case since Feb. 19, 2015. That was the day Punch dismissed the lawsuit. He said then the paperwork wasn’t properly filed.
But an Appellate Court ruled on Dec. 23 the case shouldn’t have been dismissed and the arguments should be heard in court.
Punch referred to the first filing as a “do-it-yourself petition” that contained “glaring deficiencies.”
The Squirrel Slam just happened last Saturday, but Gaylord said the Holley Fire Department did not sponsor that event. Hunters brought their squirrels to the Brockport Elks Club. The Holley Fire Department, however, sponsored a squirrel hunt in September.
Gaylord said after today’s court appearance that the fire department hasn’t broken any state laws with the squirrel hunt. He was disappointed the fire department would have to spend money on an attorney.
Winston & Strawn attorneys said they want the fire department to do an environmental impact statement on the squirrel hunt to determine the impact on the local squirrel population.
Ross Kramer said a one-day hunting event like the Squirrel Slam can result in “the massive killing of a single species at one time.” The fire department should provide details on that impact, Kramer said.
Gaylord and fire department officials have previously said the hunt doesn’t wipe out squirrels. The hunting isn’t limited to the Holley area. Hunters pursue squirrels in several counties.
The Holley event has been capped at 600 tickets or 300 two-person teams. Each team can enter up to five squirrels.
The hunting season for gray, black and fox squirrel runs from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28 and there is a daily bag limit of 6. Red squirrels may be hunted anytime and there is no limit, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Kramer said the Holley lawsuit is the first to insist an environmental impact statement should be required for a hunting contest.
Richard Brummel, an environmental activist from Long Island, filed the initial legal papers in the case. He drove to Albion today. Brummel said he worries the Earth’s resources, including wildlife and squirrels, are being depleted.