Photo: David Slater

It's the copyright lawsuit that refuses to die. In September 2017, PETA finally settled its monkey selfie lawsuit with photographer David Slater, ending years of financially destructive litigation. However, a request to dismiss the case has since been rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which points out in a newly published order that it's not required to honor the dismissal request.

The decision to proceed with a ruling appears to be the Ninth Circuit's way of preventing PETA from dodging a legal outcome that would interfere with potential future litigation of a similar nature. The Court's order states, in part, that:

...denying the motion to dismiss and declining to vacate the lower court judgement prevents the parties from manipulating precedent in a way that suits their institutional preferences.

The Ninth Circuit further narrows down the thought process behind continuing the lawsuit, stating in the order:

As one of our colleagues once warned in a similar context, “courts must be particularly wary of abetting ‘strategic behavior’ on the part of institutional litigants whose continuing interest in the development in the law may transcend their immediate interest in the outcome of a particular case."

PETA's settlement was anticipated last year after signs surfaced indicating the courts weren't in the organization's favor. In July 2017, for example, PETA's attorney faced a series of questions from judges including whether the organization's relationship with the monkey was of the nature that it could sue on the animal's behalf. Before that, a federal judge in San Francisco found that the monkey doesn't have legal standing to sue.

By settling—assuming the case were dismissed and a lower court's judgement vacated—PETA could dodge a ruling that it may not like; a ruling that could establish a precedent that would prevent it from filing similar lawsuits on the behalf of animals in the future. The Ninth Circuit's order also states:

We note that although PETA joins Appellants in the motions to dismiss the appeal and to vacate the district court judgment, and claims to have reached a settlement agreement with Appellees, it also points out that Naruto is not a party to the settlement agreement. It appears that the settlement agreement would not bar another attempt to file a new action.

A final ruling in the case is forthcoming.