Raleigh, N.C. — A Superior Court judge has ordered the state Wildlife Resources Commission to pay almost $75,000 in attorney fees to PETA in the legal challenge to the annual New Year's Eve Possum Drop in Brasstown.
An administrative judge ruled last November that the commission lacked the authority to permit the event, in which a possum is lowered in a Plexiglas box during the countdown to midnight.
The commission appealed the ruling but dropped its appeal after two days. Judge William Pittman ruled the agency "acted without substantial justification in pressing its claims" and said it must pay PETA's legal costs by Sept. 1.
"This decision backs up PETA's position that the Wildlife Resources Commission issued the permit for this crude and cruel activity illegally in the first place," PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr said in a statement. "The WRC compounded its unlawful conduct by filing a baseless appeal and sticking taxpayers with the bill."
State lawmakers passed legislation allowing the Possum Drop to continue in February, and Gov. Pat McCrory signed it into law.