Judge Pearson was recommended for the District Court position by Sen. Sherrod Brown and nominated by President Obama in December, 2009.
Pearson is currently an Adjunct Professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law where she teaches Animal Law. Listed in her Senate questionnaire responses were memberships in Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Senate Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees
Her association with animal rights groups, particularly ALDF, was questioned by Senator Jeff Sessions (R, AL):
"In your questionnaire, you noted that you are a member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”). As you noted during your hearing, you also teach Animal Law at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. According to the syllabus you provided, your course includes a section devoted to constitutional standing. The ALDF advocates that animals should be considered “legal persons” and have “standing” in court. Do you believe that animals should be conferred legal standing to bring a lawsuit?"
Judge Pearson Response: Existing laws do not confer standing upon animals. On a case by case basis, however, courts have addressed whether standing should be conferred upon the legal representative of an animal. See, e.g., Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992) (finding that respondent lacked standing); Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Glickman, 154 F.3d 426 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc) (finding ALDF had standing to challenge the treatment of primates). If confirmed as a United States District Judge, I will enforce applicable legal precedent.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) expressed its opposition to Pearson's nomination as a federal judge, claiming she has ties to animal activists and urged Senate members to vote against her appointment. NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall said Pearson’s connections to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an organization that advocates giving animals the same legal rights as humans, would make it difficult for her to be an impartial judge in cases regarding actions by animal rights activists.
December 21, 2010. U.S. Senate confirmed U.S. Magistrate Judge Benita Y. Pearson by a vote of 56-39 to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
ANIMAL LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
ALDF describes itself as attorneys active in shaping the emerging field of animal law. They specialize in "filing groundbreaking lawsuits to stop animal abuse and expand the boundaries of animal law." ALDF advocates changing the legal status of animals from property to personhood.
“Everything we are doing lays the foundation for the one day when animals will have rights" ....“We need to get in their faces and sue the animal users so often they don’t know which courtroom they’re supposed to appear in next.” Valerie Stanley, ALDF Attorney June, 1996
ALDF is a partner in The Great Ape Legal Project, a joint project between ALDF and the Great Ape Project International, working to establish legal rights for nonhuman great apes.
The ALDF website explains, "Through this groundbreaking enterprise, ALDF is working to improve the legal status of nonhuman animals, who continue to be viewed by the courts — despite the clearer vision of scientists, philosophers and animal guardians everywhere — as mere property. "Animals have never been made a part of our legal system," explains ALDF President Steve Ann Chambers. "As a result, there is no legal recourse when they're exploited and abused."
According to the Great Ape Project mission statement, "the exploitation of great primates in laboratories, circus, entertainment shows and zoos can be considered a kind of slavery, reminding what men used to do with others of his own kind who were considered to be inferior a little bit more than one century ago."
ALDF also works to establish Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapters at Law Schools. Student chapters work with ALDF to advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Currently 152 U.S Chapters and 8 International Chapters have been established.