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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of California Monday barred athletic shoe maker Adidas from selling shoes made from kangaroo leather in California, reversing a lower court's decision.
California does not allow products made from kangaroos to be sold or imported into the state, but Adidas had claimed that the state law conflicted with the aims of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which sought to support Australian efforts to control kangaroos. The expanding population of the jumping marsupials has become a problem for Australia.
"The bottom line is they've decided the California law is constitutional. As of now, it is illegal to sell products made of kangaroos in California," said Orly Degani, a lawyer for Viva! USA, an animal rights group that first filed a lawsuit in 2003 challenging the sale of kangaroo-skin shoes in the state.
A lawyer for the Humane Society of the United States, which filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of plaintiffs Viva! USA, called the court's decision "critically important" for species other than just kangaroos -- such as grizzly bears, bald eagles and wolves, which are dependent on state protection.
"When the federal government decides not to protect a species, the state can still do so," said HSUS counsel Jonathan Lovvorn, explaining the ruling. "What Adidas was saying was when the federal government decides not to protect a species, the state can't protect it either. That was squarely rejected by the court."
A spokeswoman for Adidas wrote in an e-mail that the company expects to ultimately prevail in the matter, but did not clarify further. Other legal matters related to the case now will be sent back to the appeals court.
Meanwhile, a bill that would overturn California's ban is working its way through the state legislature.
"Although Adidas makes some shoes using kangaroo leather, a common practice in our industry, Adidas does not make shoes from any endangered or threatened kangaroo species," said the Adidas spokeswoman Andrea Corso.
The Supreme Court's decision reversed a victory for defendants Adidas and retailers Sports Chalet and Offside Soccer last year when they won their appeal of the lawsuit brought by Viva! USA.