I need to find a case regarding whether a Gray Wolf can file a lawsuit on its own behalf with regard to the Endangered Species Act. I don't have a specific jurisdiction and I have searched different terms in Westlaw with no luck. Can anyone point me to a case?
Since wolves physically cannot construct and legal petitions pro se, they can't sue in courts on their own. However, the same is true of various humans. The real legal question is whether a wolf (or other animal) has standing to sue (with the aid of a crafty attorney). The question is not entirely decided in the US, but the odds for animals having standing in court are poor.
In the case of Naruto v. Slater, 888 F.3d 418, a macaque in Indonesia took some selfies with an unattended camera. The camera owner published the photos and claimed copyright: PETA and others then filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the photographer, acting on behalf of the macaque (assigned the name Naruto). The court dismissed the case, but the specific reason was that PETA failed to assert "next friend" status, especially that "the next friend has some significant relationship with, and is truly dedicated to the best interests of, the petitioner".
In an earlier decision, Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169, the court do not have statutory standing under the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. But there is also Article III (constitutional) standing. The court notes that
Article III does not compel the conclusion that a statutorily authorized suit in the name of an animal is not a "case or controversy." As commentators have observed, nothing in the text of Article III explicitly limits the ability to bring a claim in federal court to humans.
It is obvious that an animal cannot function as a plaintiff in the same manner as a juridically competent human being. But we see no reason why Article III prevents Congress from authorizing a suit in the name of an animal, any more than it prevents suits brought in the name of artificial persons such as corporations, partnerships or trusts, and even ships, or of juridically incompetent persons such as infants, juveniles, and mental incompetents.
Indeed, in Palila v. Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources, 852 F.2d 1106, the endangered finch palila sued, being represented by attorneys for the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and other environmental parties. The lawsuit was successful, in part because the court reasoned that
the bird ( Loxioides bailleui), a member of the Hawaiian honeycreeper family, also has legal status and wings its way into federal court as a plaintiff in its own right. The Palila (which has earned the right to be capitalized since it is a party to this proceeding) is represented by attorneys for the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and other environmental parties who obtained an order directing the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources ("Department") to remove mouflon sheep from its critical habitat. Sports hunters, represented by the Hawaii Rifle Association, among others, had intervened to dispute the contention that the Palila was "harmed" by the presence of mouflon sheep.
However, the main reason why the suit succeeded was that defendants failed to argue that the bird did not have standing.
The Cetaceans court referred to the Palila case (also 9th Circuit), and dismissed that statement as "nonbinding dicta". Their discussion is then followed with numerous cases where the Palila statement is found to not be a binding holding. There have been some successes, Marbled Murrelet v. Pacific Lumber Co, 880 F. Supp. 1343, in dicta states that
Thus, as a protected species under the ESA, the marbled murrelet has standing to sue "in its own right." Marbled Murrelet v. Babbitt, No. C-93-1400-FMS, slip op. at 9, n. 4 (N.D.Cal. Sept. 1, 1993) (quoting Palila, 852 F.2d at 1107.)
See also Loggerhead Turtle v. County Council of Volusia, Florida, 896 F.Supp. 1170.